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Jammu and Kashmir administration gears up to battle a surge in drug addiction

Representational image. Jammu and Kashmir has six lakh, comprising 4.6 percent of the Union Territory's population , who have been facing drug related problems (Pic. Courtesy IANS)

Jammu and Kashmir has six lakh, comprising 4.6 percent of the Union Territory's population , who have been facing drug related problems.  Around 90 percent of users are in the critical age group of 17-33 years. This was disclosed on Friday at the maiden meeting of the State Level Committee of Narco Coordination Centre presided over by Chief Secretary Arun Kumar Mehta. The meeting outlined the broad project contours for tackling drug menace in Jammu and Kashmir.

Senior functionaries of Narcotics Control Bureau, Anti Narcotics Tasks Force (ANTF), State Drug Controller, Forensic Science Laboratory, Criminal Investigation Department besides the senior representatives of Excise, Health & Medical Education, Home and Forest department participated in the meeting.

The participants underscored the need to tackle the drug menace as Jammu and Kashmir lies in close vicinity of the 'golden crescent' which produces 80 percent of the world's opium and is considered as the prime source of the drug trade and trafficking.

Chief Secretary Mehta spotlighted the need for  compiling data on production of poppy and cannabis in Jammu and Kashmir, as well as cross-border transportation to precisely assess the presence of drugs, including other psychotropic and narcotic substances and their synthetic derivatives in the Union Territory.

For curbing the illicit cultivation of poppy, Mehta directed ANTF in convergence with the Excise and Agriculture departments to map the expected cultivation areas and take remedial actions for destruction of illegal crop, both on private and government lands. ANTF was asked to formulate an action plan to prevent cultivation of all the proscribed substances in the next season.

Observing that the drug menace in terms of usage and addiction has significantly gone up in Jammu and Kashmir in last years, Chief Secretary directed the concerned to enhance conviction rate in narco-related cases while simultaneously focusing on proper counselling and rehabilitation of drug affected youths.

The meeting stressed on formulation of a multi-faceted strategy to tackle the drug issue including proper training and capacity building of the enforcement agencies, enhancement of drug testing capacity, quantitative assessment of illicit production and it's trade, seizure and destruction besides arrest and conviction of accused and counselling and rehabilitation of victims so as to completely eradicate the drug menace.

Mehta sought a focussed approach for counselling and rehabilitation of victims of the drug abuse for which a broad policy has to be formulated for timely intervention of the Government. He observed that the scourge had to be tackled at a mega scale considering its prevalence in the highly vulnerable UT. Mehta directed the constitution of a sub-committee for drafting an action plan for achieving tangible, on-ground results within a stipulated time frame by involving both the divisional and the district administrations and other stakeholders.

ANTF was also directed to undertake extensive awareness generation drives to inform the public on the associated risks and issues, and accordingly plan a calendar of activities. It was also directed to institutionalise the mechanism for promoting wide ranged reporting on illegal cultivation, transportation, trade and consumption of drugs and their synthetic derivatives through non-profit groups, Panchayati Raj Institutions and volunteers.

Smuggling of opium and other deleterious drugs from Afghanistan and Pakistan and it's trafficking in Jammu and Kashmir and  up to Delhi, Mumbai and other cities has become rampant.  In addition to its flow through traditional routes from across the LoC and the International Border, stake-holders in the business have started delivery through drones since last year. Huge quantities of drugs and cash have been recovered in both Kashmir as well as Jammu, by the security forces in 2020 and 2021.

Officials believe that the smuggled in drugs are used as a big source to generate financial resources for different militant and separatist groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir. They also insist that different militant groups find it easier to draw new recruits from the drug addicts and other people associated with this illegal business.

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