Time for society to introspect

Monday Musing

[ Junroi Mamai ]

This month, Chief Minister Pema Khandu launched an online certificate course on drug abuse prevention to tackle substance abuse in the state. In the initial phase, all Group A and B employees of the state government have to mandatorily undergo the course. This goes on to show how much of a serious concern the issue of drug abuse has become in our state.

The state has already enacted the Arunachal Pradesh Psychoactive Substances Policy in 2021. The move came after enforcement agencies reported that drug addiction has reached alarming proportions in 15 of the 25 districts of the state. The report also mentioned a rise in addiction among government employees.

As per the state government, Namsai, Lohit, Dibang Valley, Upper Siang, Anjaw, Changlang, Tirap and West Kameng are among the 272 worst drug abuse-affected districts in the country.

The Centre has also been strongly pushing for an addiction-free India, and launched the nationwide ‘Nasha Mukt Bharat Abhiyan’ on 15 August, 2020 in 272 districts across 32 UT/states identified as most vulnerable in terms of drug usage.

Speaking in the context of Arunachal, alcohol and opium consumption are an inseparable part of our tradition and culture. Local beverage, commonly known as rice/millet beer, is prepared in every household as part of our tradition; it is used in our day to day life, right from the birth of a child to any death in the family, or on the special occasions of marriage and festivals. Opium, on the other hand, is traditionally used for its medicinal properties for treating diarrhoea, cuts and bruises, and as a general painkiller.

With changing lifestyle and modern comforts, youths are further drawn towards addiction and regularly abuse it. Local beverages have been replaced by IMFL, which is widely available in every nook and corner of Arunachal. There is a common adage in Arunachal: ‘There are less chemist shops available in Arunachal and more wine shops.’

Opium, on the other hand, is widely commercialised, leading to its large-scale illegal cultivation and peddling in various parts of Arunachal. To counter illegal opium cultivation, the state government has been trying to wean people away from opium cultivation by promoting other high-value crops. However, youths have also replaced opium addiction with its enhanced forms like heroin, cocaine and brown sugar and other opioids, which are not part of our culture and tradition but have been introduced into our state.

This rising drug addiction among the youths has become a big challenge for our society; there is already widespread unemployment in our state, and with much of our youth population firmly under the grip of addiction and substance abuse, the future of our state does not look promising.

The need of the hour is to continue the rigorous combined efforts against addiction, which is currently being done in every district of the state by the state government, CBOs, women organisations and religious organisations. Their achievement so far is commendable. However, there is the recurrent problem of former addicts relapsing into addiction. Here, the responsibility lies upon the society to ensure that the momentum created by the government and these organisations so far is maintained and not slowed down in the future. In addition to this, there is also a need for change within our society itself. Many communities in our state have already given up a few old traditions which were harmful and not in the interest of their particular community. It is now time for the whole of our society to introspect.