The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) is headquartered in RK Puram, New Delhi. This is the national nodal agency that acts as a repository and reference point for all data relating to the enforcement of drug laws in India. In its 2015 report, it stated that there are approximately four million addicts in India. It further stated that a scheme to finance state governments to strengthen their enforcement capabilities for combating Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances was launched by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs on 24 October, 2004 at an estimated cost of Rs 10 crore. The Government of India further decided to extend this scheme for five years (2009-10 to 2013-14) with an estimated budget of Rs 15 crore.
During the financial year 2014-15, Rs 2,28,69,419 was sanctioned for five states to improve their drug-enforcement infrastructure; 388 Drug Law Enforcement training programmes were organised wherein a total of 14,255 personnel were trained; and 1,600 drug detection (DD) kits were given to Central and state agencies for spot identification of seized drugs.
A mere 20 kilometres away from the NCB headquarters is New Seelampur, a Muslim-dominated resettlement colony in North-East Delhi. Here, nearly 30,000 people are crammed into each square kilometre. "Entire families are addicted to smack, cannabis and medical drugs, aside from alcohol and tobacco," says Asif Chaudhary, resident and social worker. Outside the New Usmanpur Police Station, on a clean patch of green, adolescents lie passed out on cannabis and smack. At a stone’s throw is the area’s first and only failed hotel project, just a small building dotted with reflective glass windows. Three wine and beer shops have cropped up in it. In and around it, young boys (from the age of 15 upwards) drink hard liqour, chew tobacco and sneak into parked buses to smoke up. “Young people fear nothing because they know they will not be subject to punishment like adults,” adds Chaudhary.
Last year, at the Karkardooma Court, armed assailants shot at a police constable and got off scot-free because they were minors and hence, only agents of the crime. On 4 January this year, the President of India accorded his assent to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. Section 15 of the new act says in case of a heinous offence alleged to have been committed by a child, who has completed or is above the age of 16, the Juvenile Justice Board shall conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine whether a juvenile offender is to be sent for rehabilitation or be tried as an adult. Youngsters in New Seelampur haven’t memorised constitutional provisions or kept track of its intricate amendments. Quite fatally, they only remember it through the broad social experience of it.
Those clumps of twisted syringe needles in public toilets, in a rundown brick plot (that belongs to the Delhi Jal Board) and inside electric transformers defy denial. “Sometimes, addicts go and pull out charged parts of transformers, if they succeed, there’s no power supply for hours, if they don’t they die from shock,” says Chaudhary.
Naseem is a recovering addict from the region. He asks why thekas flout the law and operate within 100 metres of a government school in the adjacent Shastri Park region. He says addicts are in the habit of breaking off and selling window grills, taps, ceiling fans and other school property. Last month, a Delhi Police head constable riding a two-wheeler was knocked down by a car near the Seelampur T-junction. The police confirmed that the car was allegedly being driven by a teenager without a license. How many criminals are actually addicts? That might be hard to find out because the last National Survey on Drug Abuse was conducted in 2000-2001 (report published in 2004). The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has recently approached Aiims, Delhi, to conduct the survey.
Of course, education isn’t a top priority for many. Sharib, another resident, lost his brother to a drug overdose some years ago. Today, he is angry that teenagers from JJ colonies in New Seelampur become peddlers for Rs 200 to 300 a day. The other employment alternative is the peeling of plastic coating from wires, in which even women and children are engaged. Addicts save on labour costs (Rs 10 a metre) and set large chunks of PVC wire on fire to get their hands on the copper; air be damned. Asha Community Health and Development Society is an NGO that has been running a centre here since 1990. In July, largely due to Asha’s efforts, 14 students from Seelampur made it to Delhi University. Out of the 78 students who appeared for the Class XII examinations, 12 scored more than 80 percent. Subodh Masih, who currently manages the centre along with six staffers and four volunteers, says that after Class XII, there’s a 40 to 50 percent dropout rate.
It all boils down to the fact that drugs are easily available. Shouldn’t the local authorities check whether the queues outside local chemist shops in blocks A, C, B and K are for prescription-based drugs like Avil (anti-inflammatory for aches and allergies), Siazepam (tranquilising muscle relaxant), Nitrazepam (short-term relief from insomnia and anxiety), Alprax (a sedative, hypnotic, anxiolytic) and Phenergan (antihistamine, sedative, and anti-nausea drug), none of which can be sold over the counter? This is the question that Dr Nafis of Seva Dispensary in Seelampur’s K Block wants to ask local authorities. In the last 10 years, he has referred to hospitals 38 cases of AIDS from Seelampur and only 10 to 20 addiction victims.
Three years ago, when he tried to counsel addicts, they gatecrashed his office and stole his laptop. Here’s where the lack of a law deepens the rot. Drug addicts remain in the vague segment between carriers of a social problem and victims of a mental disorder. Section 19 of the Mental Health Act 1987 states any mentally-ill person who does not, or is unable to, express his willingness for admission as a voluntary patient, may be admitted and kept as an inpatient in a psychiatric hospital or psychiatric nursing home on an application made in that behalf by a relative or a friend of the mentally-ill person.
“Even the new bill doesn’t include rescue services. Which means it doesn’t let us go pick them up from the street. If we keep them here against their wish and they run away; even the effort put into bringing them here goes down the drain,” says Dr Nimesh Desai, director, Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (it is 6.2 kilometres away from New Seelampur). Is there a solution? Yes, IHBAS operates a Mobile Mental Health Unit that tracks and treats senior citizens suffering from acute depression, paranoia, and schizophrenia. These patients have either been locked inside their homes or dumped on the streets. A similar community outreach for drug relief, in Desai’s opinion, is badly required.
On mossy, damaged walls, there are torn fliers for a Nasha Mukti Kendra. Dial in and its founder JS Jangra answers. He says he recovered some years ago, and along with six other volunteers, he runs a four-bed rehab in the neighbourhood. He says there’s an almost 90 percent relapse rate, which means an addict needs to stay in rehab at least for six months. At the Jag Pravesh Chandra Hospital close by, the Delhi State AIDS Control Society provides opioid-substitution treatment. In Delhi, there are five drug de-addiction centres jointly run by the government, situated in urban villages like Nand Nagri, Amberhai and Mahipalpurand are battling for funds.The Delhi government has no separate budget for de-addiction. The Ministry of Women and Child Development department keeps funds aside for organising awareness activities under its prohibition services.
To bother about its naked grey drains where mosquitoes do the Mexican Wave, New Seelampur has to first quit being Mexico — a sobering reality for the National Capital.
The following are excerpts from an interview with Haji Ishraq Khan, MLA-Seelampur
Why is there no drug de-addiction centre in the region?
The DDA doesn’t give us land to build a Nasha Mukti Kendra. We need a lot of land, at least ‘one thousand metres’.
There are NGOs operating in the region, do you work with them to tackle on-ground problems?
NGOs only make claims on paper, they don’t do real work
What about the private liquor shops that have opened up inside an unopened hotel?
There are private shops and the owners of the hotel are responsible for pulling them out of somewhere else and placing them here. Their liquor licenses were old.
Doesn’t the police do anything to stop addiction?
The police wants all kinds of illegal activities to go on so it can fill its own pocket.