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Prepare plan in 4 months to curb drug, alcohol abuse in children: SC to Centre

The bench also asked the Centre to conduct a national survey on the substance and alcohol abuse and use of psychotropic substances among children in schools across the country.

india Updated: Dec 15, 2016 00:59 IST
A drug addict undergoing treatment at a hospital.
A drug addict undergoing treatment at a hospital. (HT file photo)

The Supreme Court asked the Centre on Wednesday to come up within four months a national action plan to tackle drugs and alcohol abuse among schoolchildren, saying kids are pushed to become drug peddlers once they get addicted.

Acting on a petition from Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s child rights group, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, the top court asked the Centre to explore the possibility of including ill-effects of drug abuse in the school curriculum and conduct a nationwide survey within six months to see how widespread the problem is.

With government figures showing almost 20% of addicts in India are under 21, the court said more needed to be done to educate young people about the dangers of substance abuse.

“This is a basic deficiency which the Union government must redress at the earliest,” a bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice DY Chandrachud said.

The Centre had said a national policy on curbing drugs abuse was being finalized, but admitted there was no authentic data.

Satyarthi’s NGO filed the petition in 2014, seeking a court order for a national action plan to tackle child drugs abuse through identification, investigation, recovery, counselling and rehabilitation.

“Trafficking and drug abuse, inherently linked to each other, are the most prevalent forms of organised crime in the world,” he said in response to the verdict.

“This petition was filed to ensure that children are provided with a better, more healthy childhood.”

The child rights group asked the court to order the government to create rehabilitation centres in each district of India, with a special wing for children.

Experts say peer pressure and academic stress are driving children to drugs, but there is scant data on the scale of the problem.

India is home to the largest child population in the world with over 44 crore children, according to the census of 2011. Among this, twenty-four crore are adolescents.

A 2013 report by the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights estimated 40-70% of India’s 18 million homeless children were exposed to some form of substance abuse.

Many of them started taking drugs as young as five years old, the report found.

It estimated almost one in five of India’s drug and alcohol addicts in 2011 were under the age of 21.

A bench comprising chief Justice TS Thakur and DY Chandrachud also asked the Centre to conduct a national survey on the substance and alcohol abuse and use of psychotropic substances among children in schools across the country.

Issuing a slew of directions, the bench observed “Children are encouraged to become drug peddlers once they are addicted (to drugs).”

The bench also favoured a re-look on the curriculum to make school children aware about substance abuse and its ill-effects.

The directions were passed on a 2014 PIL filed by NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan of Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi.

The NGO, in its plea, had sought a direction to formulate a national action plan for children on drugs and substance abuse including all issues of identification, investigation, recovery, counselling and rehabilitation.

It had also sought creation of model syllabus on ill- effects of drugs and substance abuse.

The NGO, represented by senior advocate HS Phoolka, had sought setting up of rehabilitation and de-addiction centres in each district of the country with a special wing for children.