1) Drug usage is a complex issues with a huge variety of cases that cannot be dealt with uniform application of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985 on all members in the drug supply chains. Comment (250 words)
- Source: The Hindu - Page 9/OPED - Should the NDPS Act be amended?
- GS 3: Internal security, Organized crimes
Introduction: Recently the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has proposed certain changes to some provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985 to decriminalize drug use of first time users and see them as a victims rather than the perpetrators of crime. This highlights the huge variety of cases in this regard.
The types of drug usage and participants in the supply chains:
- Drug users as per the types of drugs: Types of Drug uses: There are three types of drugs
- Party drugs: Such as usage of cocaine, hookah pipes or ganja papers etc.
- Prescription drugs: These are taken on the recommendations of the doctors and sold only by licenced chemists.
- Synthetic drugs: Mainly inhalants. For example, Some people even apply Zandu Balm on bread slices and eat them. We found people using cough syrups to get a high. Street children and labourers go after cheaper options like glue, whiteners, thinners, stain removers.
- Drug users as per the frequency:
- First time users: Who have never taken drugs and are trying for the first time.
- Habitual users: Who frequently use drugs.
- Drug suppliers:
- Producers: who cultivate these drugs. These can be in the disturbed areas such as Maoist insurgency areas. These can also be illegally grown in private lawns or land. Often licenced producers can also divert supply. And most importantly the supply through the international channels from Golden crescent countries in the west and golden triangle in the east.
- Drug peddlers: These individuals are part of organized syndicate which distribute the drugs from the source to the end users.
- Ordinary sellers of the synthetic drugs: These include the stationary items shop owners who sell whiteners, and paint shop owners who sell the pain accessories and adhesives which contain substances which can be used as synthetic drugs as inhalers.
Treating all these varieties of crime similarly is not wise as the gravity of the criminal intent involved is different.
- Distinction on the basis of nature of crime:
- First time offenders: If a person is caught for the first time in a drugs case, be it for possession or usage, they should be sent to a rehabilitation centre. There should be scope for reformation of such persons.
- Repeat Offenders: Not anybody and everybody connected to drugs cases should be sent to prison. Only repeat offenders should be sent to prison.
- Responsibility on supplier of synthetic drugs:
- Persons selling chemicals or whiteners are equally responsible. More than a decade ago, the Delhi High Court passed a direction instructing the government to ensure that whiteners are not sold to children below 18 years of age.
- Chemists and Pharmacists must sell drugs strictly only on prescription.
- Illegal Producers and Drug Peddlers: Must be treated as they are treated in NDPS act, 1985.
- National fund for rehabilitation: We need to allocate more money for the fund, help transform drug addicts and make the job of policing easier.
Conclusion: The proposed changes of mandatory rehabilitation and counselling and the differentiate treatment for different types of offenders is a welcome step. However, for its smooth implementation, states must be consulted as Police is a state subject. Also, any such change must be first tested on a pilot basis as there is a dearth of psychologists and rehabilitation centres, which needs to be constructed first. Furthermore, it should be better to take a community based awareness approach started from school level to prevent children from joining drug addiction.