The Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment recently submitted a report titled, ‘Drug Abuse among Young Persons- Problems and Solutions’. The report notes the progress made over the years and makes multiple recommendations. Data from the government indicates that the quantity of drugs seized has increased in the last few years.
The Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment recently submitted a report titled, ‘Drug Abuse among Young Persons- Problems and Solutions’. The report is a timely one, given the extent of the drug menace in India. Owing to its proximity to major opium-producing regions of South-West and South-East Asia known as the ‘Golden Crescent’ and the ‘Golden Triangle’ respectively, India has become both a transit route as well as a destination for drug trafficking.
In today’s story, we look at the major findings and recommendations of the standing committee, along with some statistics on drug abuse in India.
All about drugs
Drugs can be broadly categorized based on the type and nature of the material. Some of the broad categories include Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic substances, Precursor chemicals, Synthetic drugs, and Pharmaceuticals.
Existing legislative framework to prevent drug abuse.
India is a party to three significant United Nations Conventions, namely the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971, and the Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988. In the year 1985, the Government of India enacted the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. This legislative measure was put in place to establish rigorous provisions facilitating the control and supervision of activities associated with narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
In a further display of commitment to address the multifaceted challenge of substance abuse, the Government released the National Policy on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) in 2012. This policy document serves as a comprehensive manual for various stakeholders and articulates an array of responsibilities to be carried out by the Government in relation to the treatment, recovery, and societal reintegration of individuals grappling with drug dependency.
What is the status of drug enforcement operations?
The primary entity responsible for drug law enforcement matters in India is the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), operating under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Alongside the NCB, several other key agencies including the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Customs and General Excise authorities, Central Bureau of Narcotics (CBN), State Police units, and State Excise departments play a pivotal role in the enforcement landscape. State Police units account for the majority of drug seizures in India.
The data pertaining to drug seizures within India reveals a notable upward trend. This data encompasses drugs such as Opium, Heroin, Ganja, Hashish, Cocaine, Morphine, Methaqualone, and ATS (Amphetamine-Type Stimulants). Collectively, these substances account for around 60% of the drugs seized in India. From the period spanning 1992 to 2015, an average of 1.2 lakh kilograms of drugs were apprehended in India annually. However, a significant upward trend is apparent in the subsequent years, spanning from 2016 to 2022, during which a staggering average of 5.1 lakh kilograms of narcotics were seized.
Moreover, the year 2021, post the COVID-19 pandemic, recorded the highest volume of drug seizures (8.3 lakh kilograms) in the past thirty years. This unprecedented surge in drug seizures was also a focal point in the Annual Report of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) for the year 2021. The report highlighted the challenges faced by enforcement agencies, primarily attributable to drug traffickers resorting to unconventional methods such as couriers, parcels, and the utilization of the darknet for their drug trafficking activities. The records indicate a rise in drug seizures via parcels, with a remarkable 300% increase noted in 2020 when compared to 2019.
How prevalent is drug abuse in India?
To ascertain the prevalence of substance use disorders within the Indian population, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment initiated a comprehensive National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance Use in India, to be conducted by the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC), AIIMS. The NDDTC submitted its report in 2019. Notably, a similar survey was conducted back in 2004, Though both surveys differ in their methodology and hence are not comparable, they provide a bird’s-eye view of the growing drug abuse in India.
The report highlighted that Alcohol is the most common psychoactive substance used by Indians. After Alcohol, Cannabis and Opioids are the next commonly used substances in India. The data reveals that approximately 2.8% of the population, equivalent to around 3.1 crore individuals, reported the utilization of some form of cannabis product over the preceding year. About one out of every eleven cannabis users’ express dependence/addiction to cannabis.
The analysis also uncovers geographical variations concerning drug usage, with states such as Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, and Delhi exhibiting a higher prevalence of drug use.
Government’s actions to tackle drug menace.
To tackle the issue of drug dependency, the Government of India introduced a central sector scheme named, “Scheme of Assistance for Prevention of Alcoholism and Substance (Drugs) Abuse.” It was later merged with the National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (NAPDDR) formulated for the period 2018-2025, based on the results of the survey held in 2018. Under this, financial assistance is provided to various Non-Governmental Organisations and project implementing agencies for treatment and rehabilitation, prevention, awareness, and capacity building among others.
Across the nation, a total of 535 de-addiction centres are operational. This comprises 350 Integrated Rehabilitation Centre for Addicts (IRCA), 53 Community-based Peer-led Intervention (CPLI) centres, 73 Outreach and Drop-In Centres (ODICs), along with 38 Addiction Treatment Facilities (ATFs).
The data of the number of beneficiaries under these schemes show that between 2016-17 and 2023-24, more than 13 lakh people have benefitted, with assistance to more than 3300 projects. A total of Rs. 626 Crores has been sanctioned under these schemes during this period.
On the prevention and awareness generation front, between 2018-19 and 2022-23, more than 7000 programmes have been conducted with over 5.8 lakh beneficiaries by the National Centre for Drug Abuse Prevention (NCDAP). Regarding the creation of skilled human resource personnel to carry out activities under NAPDDR, between 2017-18 to 2021-22, a total of 6063 training programs have been conducted with more than 4.1 lakh beneficiaries.
In addition to this, the Ministry launched Nasha Mukt Bharat Abhiyaan (NMBA) in 272 identified vulnerable districts on 15 August 2020. The major focus under this would be youth and higher educational institutions. Through the various activities undertaken for the Abhiyaan, more than 10.5 crore people have been reached out so far in the identified districts, as per government data.
Observations and Recommendations
The committee finds that there is decent progress in meeting guidelines under various schemes. Yet, there is a scope for improvement, right from awareness generation to treatment and rehabilitation. The committee reiterated the need to have strict vigilance to control the drug trafficking. The committee also asked the Ministry to take measures and apprise the committee of the progress in achieving the set deadlines in regard to training, capacity building, preventive education, and awareness generation programmes.
Apart from them, below is the summary of the shortcomings and recommendations highlighted by the Standing Committee.