Open response to Prime Minister's 'Mann Ki Baat'

  • Kiran Bedi, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Apr 06, 2015 13:25 IST

Thank you sir for bringing into focus the challenge of drug abuse through your radio broadcast, 'Mann Ki Baat'.While you addressed the nation as an educator, reformer and a transformational leader, I add, for your consideration, a comprehensive strategy for dealing with the menace as the prime justice enforcer of the country.

What I am offering comes from my experience in law enforcement during my time with the Delhi Police, Mizoram Police and Narcotics Control Bureau, running drug abuse treatment centres under the Delhi Police and later by my NGO, Navjyoti India Foundation, treatment inside Tihar Prisons as IG Prisons, followed by my PhD in drug abuse and domestic violence.

Here is a strategy which we could employ to deal with the menace.

I propose the solution under four main heads- supply reduction, demand reduction, treatment and rehabilitation and evaluation.

First ---Supply reduction

This step falls in the realm of law enforcement with community support. The primary objective is to cut off the supply of drugs.

To take this step, the local politician, which includes the municipal councillor and village heads, must be made primary stakeholders. The state government should send a clear message that drug abuse will not be tolerated, thus ensuring police performance and accountability in enforcement.

Every police station must have a thana-level committee where key stakeholders of the area come together once a month to review crime prevention measures, which include the issue of drugs.

This will ensure that all law enforcement agencies, dealing with narcotics enforcement, pool in intelligence which will hit at drug traffickers and weaken supply lines.

Second---Drug demand reduction

This step, sir, is what you spoke about. There has to be an increased sense of responsibility among parents and teachers to ensure primary prevention or early detection.

School children who become addicted to drugs tend to lag in academics and even drop out of educational institutions. They must know where to get help from.

As announced, the country must urgently set up a national helpline and outsource it to non-police personnel on the lines of the Punjab helpline-181- where any person can report or seek help. A call ensures the ambulance takes the addict to a hospital for treatment and informs police too. It also seeks a report of the action taken and satisfaction of the complainant to know the quality of service rendered. State authorities need to promote the idea further.

There is a pressing need for a national telephone number, with information about possible help centres. An added advantage of the centres would be that information about drug sale would be forthcoming.

Third---Treatment and rehabilitation

Major homework needs to be done at this step to set up standard procedures and good practices. Centres need to be registered and worthy ones must get reasonable financial assistance. Currently, government support to run a proper de-addiction centre is inadequate.

Also needed is a linkage of such treatment centres with skill development, an issue you are concerned about. Those under treatment should be taught skills for early rehabilitation. The step is therapeutic as well as cost effective to check relapse. Political leadership can ensure due resource generation from the government or community.

Abusing drugs, even for personal consumption, is an offence, though under certain conditions, such as addicts indulging in violent behaviour, which almost all of them are involved in. These people can be jailed and treated inside the jail for reasons of restraint required.

Prisons in India must be made smoke-free and with drug abuse treatment centres.
Addicts should be released on the condition that they will remain drug-free and regularly report to treatment centres in collaboration with NGOs under directions from courts. Enforcement agencies must be moved for forfeiture of sureties in cases of breach of bail conditions for money should not go in the hands of terrorists, as you mentioned.

A database of traffickers and abusers must be maintained for law to take its course. This will send a clear message that drug crimes will not pay.

As already mentioned, police must work in tandem with the Narcotics Control Bureau, the Border Security Force, Customs and other intelligence agencies. For this, the state police leadership or bureaucracy is vital. Local administration such as district magistrates and superintendents of police are important hubs for action at the grassroots level.

I recall that as a crime prevention measure, we used to track addicts to arrest them and send them to organisations for treatment and if they were found selling drugs, they would be sent to prison for treatment.

For the first time, the Delhi Police had to open their own treatment centres to meet the demand. This was the prevention and welfare role of the police. We worked closely with the community for support services.

Crime prevention cannot be achieved without the support of the community. For this, we created border groups and worked regularly with local bodies. We also opened toll-free phone lines where people could inform us of sale or consumption of drugs.

The judiciary too has a vital role in expediting drug cases and awarding stringent punishment to the guilty. Delayed trials make drug cases 'rewarding' as by the time conviction is achieved, substantial money has been made. Bail granted to drug addicts must be conditional on attendance at a government institution for regular checks to ensure the person is drug free.

Regular update in law training is essential for enforcers too. We used to keep track of all drug trials and keep past criminals and addicts under local watch. If they slipped, we went back to court to cancel their bails which meant stricter penalties.

Fourth- Evaluation

An annual evaluation of the above mentioned efforts must be conducted by law schools, universities and management institutions as part of their internships, projects or theses.

This will help all agencies stay up to date with evolving challenges. It is also important to provide accountability of all stakeholders which will open up our criminal justice system, while removing the drought of empirical research in the fields of criminology, psychology, sociology and medicine among others.

As you rightly said sir, the problem of drug abuse is multi-dimensional.

However, public representatives must take the lead. Unsparing and impartial police, caring parents and strict teachers, responsible community participation and an expeditious judiciary must work in tandem.
From Mann Ki Baat, the issue will become Samaj Ka Kartavya, providing relief to millions of families and youth.

Respected sir, I would feel blessed to serve my nation and to oversee the coordination of a programme that makes Indian youth healthy and homes free of the violence that accompanies this menace.

Jai Hind..

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