Bringing drug users back to mainstream society
Video clips of drug users, drug dependents or loosely called drug addicts, taking their shots, and photographs of half-alive bodies lying on the roadside are being circulated across social media. The video clips and photos are from the streets of Lamka.
Though this is not something new nor surprising, especially in Churachandpur district, which is listed at the top of drug abusers in the State, the general public seems to enjoy the video clips and photos as they go viral.
This large number of drug users were dismissed as "ugly, dirty addicts." In the past few weeks, they have been literally shooed and chased from public places—markets and the main town. Lamka residents feel these people should not be seen around and pray that they will disappear from public view as they are shameful to/for society.
Several opinions, comments, and deliberations do happen around drugs, related topics and subjects. But it does not seem to go beyond a discussion or analysis of the problem.
The problem of drugs in Manipur is an age-old issue. Perhaps people have become immune to it, that no-one really cares about it any more-or so it appears.
Over the years, it has been said that drug users are disowned by their families. On the other hand, it is understandable that not only the addicts but their families are being stigmatised by society. Or simply that the family could not afford to feed the "addict member". In a bigger family, there is likely to be more than one addict.
The best way is to wash your hands off of responsibility and accountability. Even CSOs do not seem to have time and energy anymore.
Thus, we see them loitering on the streets , taking shelter in lanes and by-lanes of street corners openly indulging in drug abuse. They populate areas like markets, public places, and non-residential spaces.
Their number or population is huge. Data, though, is not readily available. The rows of memorial stones in the cemeteries in Lamka are a chilling indication of the drug impact. Most of the deaths now, though, do not seem to even have a "memorial" erected.
Today , youths and adolescents are being sent outside the State to save them. Those who manage to leave the State (and, of course, those whose parents could afford it) were considered lucky and safe.
At one point in time, Manipur topped the list of HIV cases in the country. For some years, though, the subject seems to have disappeared from public discourse. Again, of late, the drug-subject has popped up. Thanks to the "War on Drugs" campaign
There is a slight difference to note. In the 80s and 90s, we did not know much about the "raw material" or the "stuff." A general understanding is that it came from "outside"—from the neighboring country. In recent years, we have heard and seen about drug manufacturing factories being busted and vast areas of poppy cultivation being destroyed in our own State. It appears we are "producing" and supplying too. And the prices are said to be cheaper. Manipur seems to be progressing from being a consumer to having gone higher up to being producers and manufacturers as well.
Earlier, only upper-class children could afford drugs, and it was considered "the problem of the rich". Now the socio-economically lower class has also gotten hooked on it.
Perhaps it is for these reasons that drug abuse is regarded as less serious and we hear about it less frequently than in the past. Even as the menace continues, a number of rehab-centers that existed earlier seem to have closed down. A thought worth pondering.
Many have said that the drug menace is not something that can be stopped or done away with totally. This is true, but that should not discourage or stop us from attempting to at least decrease the menace. Or find some alternative ways to the traditional approach of rehabilitation centres or supply free anti-addiction medicine.
As the trend shows, the drug menace seems to be affecting the less privileged more than the socio-economically well off. These addicts and chemical dependents are homeless, disowned, and unwanted in society. They comprise the population who are "the bad and the ugly".
While the numerous efforts are appreciable, new attempts can be made keeping in mind the category and trend of drug users and their social-economic background.
Moreover, drug problems cannot be dealt with in isolation. The education sector, especially higher education and Government schools, must be looked into. The unemployment scenario is one major factor that seriously needs attention.
It has also been observed that many of these drug users did attempt to "do something"—like collecting scrap. This indicates that they do feel the need for some work to sustain themselves.
Most drug addicts are in their prime age. That means they are employable and productive. They can be engaged in a variety of activities to earn at least their daily dose.
Since most of them are homeless and unwanted, one can think of or attempt to provide a temporary shelter--say maybe a night shelter.
Another effective action is rehabilitation—not the traditional rehabilitation of herding them in rehab centres, giving them daily doses of spiritual or religious lectures and religious counselling.
Empowering them and engaging them in activities can surely be the beginning of a new life—an activity that will immensely enhance their self-esteem and give them a sense of worth. It is very crucial to bring them back to the mainstream of society. One effective way is to engage them in some form of productive activity. Though they may be ugly and dirty they are and can still be productive. They can be transformed into a huge resource, very resourceful human capital. They can surely contribute and take part in the development and progress of society.