Rehabilitating drug users
Something is wrong
From April 29, 2020 to March 31, 2021 and obviously nothing much has changed at the ground reality. The first incident refers to the allegations that an inmate of a rehabilitation centre was beaten to death by staff of the rehab centre and the second refers to the incident in which three former drug users were allegedly stopped, stripped naked and searched by staff of yet another rehab centre, on the suspicion that they could be carrying drugs for consumption. Move forward to April 4, 2021 and even as the report of the three former drug users being stripped and searched came to the notice of the media in Imphal, came another news that an FIR has been registered against top office bearers of an NGO, which first exposed the ‘stripped and paraded naked’ story to the media, for allegedly assaulting the vice president of the NGO which stripped the three former drug users and searched them. Something, somewhere is horribly wrong and that such unsavoury incidents should grab prime spots in all the dailies published from Imphal, while the catchword of the State Government and the conscientious people is the slogan ‘war on drugs’ should precisely underline how horribly wrong things have gone. There is a reason why drug rehab centres are being set up and that is to provide a space to drug users who want to kick the habit. This should however not be taken to mean that drug users can be subjected to inhuman treatment and shamed publicly such as subjecting to body search by members of an NGO which has sprung up to help rehabilitate drug users. Equally unacceptable is the story that another group from an NGO used intimidating tactics amounting to physically assaulting the office bearers of the Centre which subjected the three former drug users to physical search and in the process forcing them to strip in full public view. In many ways the conduct of the two NGOs may be said to be a reflection of the society at large where anyone supposedly with a calling has come under the impression that they can take the law into their hands and proceed in the manner they want.
Tough to say when the seeds for such conducts were sown, but the ugly reality in Manipur is such that anyone with a supposedly ‘socially acceptable mission’ can take up any course of action, if it is deemed to be for the betterment of society. And obviously it is drug users or abusers and those who drink, who are mostly caught in the middle. The ugly incidents that unfolded after the three former drug users were humiliated in full public view is one such case in point. Perhaps the Government would now need to formulate policies and guidelines which stipulate how those running rehab centres or are engaged in interacting with drug users and alcoholics should treat the substance abusers. Humiliation should obviously be a big no and those dealing with drug users should know this. At the same time, it is the Government which should act when any of the institution crosses the fine line and end up victimising the drug users. The immediate task at the moment is for all concerned to come together, sit together and thrash out all misunderstanding. The ultimate objective of any rehab centre or those dealing with the menace of drug abuse is to keep away the youngsters from drugs. Humiliating them would certainly not be what the doctors have prescribed to deal with drug users.