Lack of coordination between agencies despite grave situation
Even illegal crop cultivation areas yet to be mapped
Notwithstanding the fact that drugs menace is fast spreading its tentacles in the length and breadth of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, there is no action from the concerned agencies on the repeated directions of the Government regarding drafting of composite proposal to control narcotics. Moreover, instead of working in unison the departments having a key role to play in this regard are shifting the responsibilities on each other.
On October 12, 2019, the then Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam, while chairing the Apex Committee meeting on the control and regulation of operations with regard to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, had directed the Excise Department to prepare a composite proposal at the earliest for drug de-addiction and control of narcotics.
Further, he had asked the department to get one expert each from Police, Health and other concerned departments during the proposal formulation with more focus on counseling and awareness. Moreover, the direction was issued for coming up with proposals focusing on campaigns, programmes and purchase of machines and equipments besides identification of people who are affected with drugs.
Thereafter, the present Chief Secretary Dr Arun Kumar Mehta, while chairing maiden meeting of State Level Committee on Narco Coordination Centre on November 13, 2021, had outlined the broad project contours for tackling drug menace in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Chief Secretary had underscored the need of compiling data on production of poppy and cannabis in Jammu and Kashmir as well as cross-border transportation to assess the presence of these drugs and their synthetic derivatives.
Moreover, for curbing the illicit cultivation of poppy, Dr Mehta had directed the Anti Narcotics Task Force in convergence with the Excise and Agriculture Departments to map the expected cultivation areas and take remedial actions for destruction of illegal crop.
However, till date no concrete action on these directives of former and present Chief Secretary has been taken by any of the concerned departments despite being aware of the fact that the menace is spreading its tentacles rapidly, official sources told EXCELSIOR.
“What to talk of drafting composite proposal to control narcotics even no meeting has been held between Excise, Agriculture and Anti-Narcotics Task Force (ANTF) till date”, sources informed, adding “even till date no efforts have been made to compile the date on production of poppy and cannabis and mapping of such areas through scientific methods”.
“While Excise Department is of the stand that it is supposed to destroy the poppy cultivation whenever it is brought to its notice by the police, the Agriculture Department claims that Excise Department has key role to play in tackling of menace and it is ready to extend assistance whenever the same is sought”, sources further said.
Even till date sub-committee for drafting action plan for achieving tangible on-ground results within a stipulated time frame by involving both divisional, district administrations and other stakeholders has not been constituted. “There is little focus on proper training of enforcement agencies, enhancement of drug testing capacity and assessment of illicit production and trade”, sources added.
The most astonishing fact is that all those senior officers who participated in the meetings chaired by former and present Chief Secretary never bothered to pass on instructions to all the concerned agencies under their administrative control for acting on the directions in a time bound manner.
“With such a casual approach from all the quarters how the menace can be tackled remains a million dollar question”, sources said while disclosing that Jammu and Kashmir lies in close vicinity to the golden crescent which produces 80% of the world opium and is considered as the prime source of illicit drug trade.
“As per the survey, Jammu and Kashmir has 6 lakh people affected by drug related issues which is approximately 4.6% population of the Union Territory of which 90% users are from 17-33 age group”, sources informed, adding “drug menace in terms of usage and addiction has significantly gone up in Jammu and Kashmir during recent years”.
They further said that even awareness is not being generated on a large scale although the same is imperative to guide the youth about the risks of taking the drugs