Drug problem in Punjab was a major issue in the recent assembly polls with at least two prominent political players promising to tackle the menace within weeks on coming to power in the state.
But the Congress, which formed the government on March 16, will need to also focus on drug de-addiction and rehabilitation centres. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has found serious shortcomings in the working of drug de-addiction centres (DDC), model drug de-addiction centres (MDDC) and rehabilitation centres (RC).
Of the 57 centres, 35 drug de-addiction and rehabilitation centres were found to be functioning without licences, while another five not functional at all, according to audit report on non-public sector undertakings tabled in the Punjab assembly on Wednesday. The CAG had carried out a compliance audit of the de-additional and rehabilitation centres for a three-year period from 2013 to 2016 to assess their efficiency and effectiveness.
As per Rule 7 of the Punjab Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Counselling and Rehabilitation Centre Rules, 2011, no centre shall be allowed to operate without obtaining licence from the licensing authority – director, health and family welfare; and director, social security, women and child development. The 35 centres – 3 MDDCs, 18 DDCs and 14 RCs – were functioning in contravention of the rules. The department attributed the reasons for non-issue of licences to non-receipt of inspection reports from civil surgeons and non-receipt of applications.
The CAG said the reply was not tenable, as eight functional MDDCs, DDCs and RCs, which had applied for licences between September 2012 and April 2016, were not issued licences even after delay ranging between five months to four years. Another 27 de-addiction and rehabilitation centres, which were functional between January 2011 and June 2016, had not applied for licences.
Also, five de-addiction and rehab centres which were set up in 2014 and 2015 at a cost of ₹6.93 crore were not functional due to non-availability of psychiatrists, medical officers and other staff, besides essential equipment. While the drug addicts were deprived of the benefits of these centres, the department said that it conducted walk-in interviews every two months for recruitment of psychiatrists which was under process.
The report said test-check of records in selected districts showed that against 1.75-lakh drug addiction patients registered in OPD, only 11,186 were taken to indoor patients department which ranged between 1% and 19% in eight model drug de-addiction centres and drug de-addiction centres during 2013-16. The percentage of unutilised bed capacity in these centres ranged from 17 to 60 during the same period.
In response, Jalandhar MDDC stated that the patients were not fully aware of the newly established 50-bedded centre located at the local civil hospital. However, it was not found acceptable. The CAG also said the functioning of the de-addiction centres and rehabilitative efforts of the state government were hampered by failure to avail of central assistance of ₹36 lakh due to non-submission of utilisation certificates and shortage of manpower ranging between 25% and 100% in some of these districts.