MPs flag drug use after report in Hindustan Times
The members asked the government to draft stronger laws to punish peddlers and tackle the drugs crisis.Updated: Jul 04, 2019 23:53 IST
Lawmakers flagged concerns in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday about rising drug abuse among schoolchildren, and asked the government to take strict measures to curb the menace, days after HT carried an exclusive report on how one in six students aged between eight and 11 in east Delhi’s municipal schools were addicted to different types of substances.
The members asked the government to draft stronger laws to punish peddlers and tackle the drugs crisis.
Calling the attention of the Union minister of social justice and empowerment, Thawar Chand Gehlot, to the situation of increasing drug addiction among school children highlighted in the report, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader RK Sinha said a survey conducted by the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) had revealed that 16.8% of 75,037 students across 368 primary schools used substances.
He said it was shocking that children aged just eight, nine, 10 and 11 years old were addicted to alcohol, tobacco, industrial glue, and injectable drugs.
On June 26, HT reported the survey conducted by 80 child psychologists-cum-counsellors in areas such as Seemapuri, Trilokpuri, Nand Nagri, Jaffrabad, Kalyanpuri and Kondli. The exercise, carried out from July 2018 to March this year on the orders of the Delhi high court’s Juvenile Justice Committee, will be repeated annually.
Giving details of the findings, Sinha said the survey found 8,182 students were using supari (betel nuts) mixed with dried opium shells; 2,613 students chewed tobacco; 1,410 students smoked beedis and cigarettes; 231 consumed alcohol; and 191 used inhalants such as fluid, petrol and sulochan (an industrial glue).
Sinha sought the intervention of the Prime Minister and Union home minister to check the problem and even demanded death penalty for peddlers encouraging children to consume drugs.
“These people are worse than terrorists. The latter only kill a person but the former destroy families and society. I hope the government takes steps to destroy the drug mafia,” he said.
Replying to the motion, Gehlot acknowledged the seriousness of the problem and said the government was taking measures to check the menace. “It’s a serious and worrisome issue. If we rid 100 people of addiction, 90 new cases come up…along with laws, the public has to be a part of this drug-free campaign,” Gehlot said.
He said a survey was being conducted in 135 districts across states in the age group of 10 to 75 to find out the extent of drug abuse. The survey is expected to be over by December 2019, after which the next course would be decided, he said, adding that the Centre would consider suggestions made by members relating to children under the age of 10.
“We are working hard and sincerely…Our budget has gone up from ₹35 crore in 2014 to ₹135 crore this year,” he said.
Taking part in the discussion, Communist Part if India MP D Raja said drug addiction among children should sadden society and the country. “It shows decadence of values in families and society,” he said.
The DMK’s TKS Elangovan said strict laws were needed to punish people pushing children into drugs. “The home ministry must look into in, not just the ministry of social justice and empowerment,” he added.
Rajesh Kumar, executive director of Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM), who has worked with juvenile drug addicts across India, said, “Often, children from poor socio-economic backgrounds don’t tell their parents of their addiction for fear of being beaten up, even if they need help.”
“They can’t go to the police either. That is why counsellors must be deployed in schools across India, like they have been in east Delhi municipal schools. Early intervention will make all the difference,” he said. What the government must do is to not just curb the supply of drugs but also curb the demand for them among juveniles, he added.