In a nearly
80%-Hindu-majority country, where Hinduism disapproves of illegal drug use
(other than perhaps a small exemption for the cannabis plant which offered
shade to Lord Shiva), it is still not unusual to see a heroin needle on the
ground in Delhi, or to overhear some conversation about the quality of hash up in Darjeeling (Al Jazeera 2015).
While there is still some debate on the harm of recreational and private usage
of small amounts of drugs, there is little-to-no dissent on the consensus that
regular, repeated, and addictive drug use patterns are harmful to the
individual and society. But drug use in India is most often pushed away from
the public sphere of discussion due to bad stigma surrounding it and perhaps
for this reason, along with lacking, limited and at times antiquated policies
on illegal drugs, drug abuse and misuse crises permeate Indian society without
much recourse. For this reason, an inventory needs to be taken of the resources
that are being created and offered for drug-users, potential drug-users,
recovering drug-users, and families and friends of drug-users in India for the
case in which this drug use becomes dangerous. Some of these resources could
include policies, treatment centers, education, and funding for NGOs among
other things. Before
this happens, comprehensive data collection should be administered and released
publicly so that top scholars and government officials can contribute to the
step in the right direction, The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act
ammendment of 2012 requires a survey to be administered every 5 years "on the
extent and pattern of substance use" (PTI 2016). According to the Indian
Express, no such survey has been implemented as of yet, but results are likely
to come out in 2018 from a survey administered by the All India Institute of
Medical Science. A few surveys have been administered on small scale in the
recent past including two in Delhi: one by the Delhi Aids Control Society and a
joint study by the Women and Child Development Department and AIIMS
(Rebbapragada 2017). Citizens and government officials alike, should push for
ethical and comprehensive drug-use data collection to gauge the purview of the
drug-related problems that Indian society is facing.
India on one hand has "harsh
drug control laws [that] conform strictly with prohibition" and on the other, "alarmingly high rates of drug dependence [in some places]" (Tandon 2015). An important question to ask is: What
drug policies does India have and how are they enforced? And another: Are the
prohibitive laws encouraging the rampant drug use?
While the act has been
amended many times up through 1995, the Drugs
and Cosmetics Act of 1940 is still effective in India as per section 80 of
the slightly less but still very antiquated main drug legislation in India, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic
Substances Act of 1985 (NDPS).
The most recent update of NDPS being in 2014.
While drug laws are strict
and drug dependence at high, levels of drug-related arrests are very low. Under
the drug laws in India for 2012, 29,247 cases were reported as compared to
about a million in the US, a country barely a quarter the size of India. Less
than 30 articles have been published on reputable news sites in India about
drug arrests since the year started, whereas for most countries this number is
not countable. Clearly, it is not a main focus. And with high levels of
corruption in India, it is unclear whether these statistics are reliable.
At the same time, outcomes of
punitive measures for drug use are unclear. In a widely cited article regarding
general criminal justice policy, two scholars from Canada cite that, "increasing punitive measures have failed to reduce criminal recidivism and
instead have led to a rapidly growing correctional system that has strained
government budgets" (Andrews and Bonta 2010). While perhaps not purposefully,
India's failure to manifest existing policies into actual arrests may be better
than the alternative.
India's 1985 drug policy does
indeed allow for a one-time immunity for arrestees (not charged with any other
crimes) voluntarily admitting themselves to a recognized treatment center so
long as they complete the full length of the treatment. This does not account
for the fact, however, that some people may not have financial, physical, or
other access to such a treatment center. And effective administration of this
clause of the policy is unclear. And because drug arrests are so low, the
amount of people that this clause would effect may be very low.
The Scheme for Strengthening
of Drug De-Addiction Services (DDAP) was created in India 1985-86 and has
opened 483 detoxification and 90 counselling centers in India but, "success of
the [program] is low and states fail to adequately fund them according to
health care professionals" (Prasad 2009). Many private organizations and NGOs
have opened to close the gap.
Drug abuse in India has been
and remains a large problem. Perhaps positively, arrests are low. But on the
other side of things, not many remedial measures have been very successful in
intervening on the issue. It is unclear what kind of, albeit negative, effects
drug abuse and misuse has on society as a whole, but hopefully further research
will continue to clarify the issues that Indian society may face a result of
this epidemic, and perhaps the types of measures that would be uniquely
effective for those facing these types of issues.
Andrews, D. A. and James Bonta. "Rehabilitating
Criminal Justice Policy and Practice." Pyschology Public Policy, and Law 16,
no. 1 (2010): 39-55.
"Five-Year Arrest Trends: Totals, 2011-2015." FBI. Accessed February 1, 2017, https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2015/crime-in-the-u.s.-2015/tables/table-34.
"Hindus Drop Below 80 Percent of India's
Population." Al Jazeera. Last modified August 26, 2015, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/08/hindus-drop-80-percent-india-population-muslims-census-150826052655585.html.
"India's Drug Problem: 8 Eye-Opening Facts." India Time. Last modified June 23, 2014, https://www.indiatimes.com/news/more-from-india/indias-drug-problem-8-eyeopening-facts-156854.html.
"The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances
Act, 1985." Act, 1985.
Prasad, Raekha. "Alcohol Use on the Rise in
India." The Lancet 373, no. 9657 (2009): 17-18.
PTI. "National Survey to Find Number of People
Taking Drugs: Government." The Indian Express. Last modified August 4, 2016, http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/national-survey-to-find-number-of-people-taking-drugs-government-2953561/.
Rebbapragada, Pallavi. "Delhi Has 70,000
Children Addicted to Drugs on its Streets: How Will They be Rescued?" Firstpost. Last modified April 8, 2017, http://www.firstpost.com/india/delhi-has-70000-children-addicted-to-drugs-on-its-streets-how-will-they-be-rescued-3373880.html.