Not impossible to have ‘drug free India’

A nationwide campaign-‘Drug Free India’- initiated by the Spiritual leader and founder of The Art of Living, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is on the way. Several celebrities from Bollywood, Sports and all other walks of life have come together for this campaign which would be formally launched on February 18.

Written by February 17, 2019 08:00

New Delhi: A nationwide campaign-‘Drug Free India’- initiated by the Spiritual leader and founder of The Art of Living, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is on the way. Several celebrities from Bollywood, Sports and all other walks of life have come together for this campaign which would be formally launched on February 18.

This campaign would surely break many stereotypes also. For example, whenever we talk about the menace of drugs and addiction, one state that immediately pops on our radar is ‘Punjab’. Though the fact is that this menace is only limited to Punjab but has spread its deep tentacles in the neighbouring states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand also.

The roots of this menace that started from Punjab dates back to the inception of Green Revolution. The mechanization of farming during green revolution led to unemployment and forced the labour and marginal farmers to take the path of drugs and alcohol in order to cope with the stress. In fact, 85 to 90% people addicted to drugs in current scenario are those belonging to the lower middle class.

It did not end there. This Human Body is made up of five elements – earth, water, air, fire and ether. We are thankfully not capable of polluting fire and ether, but earth, water and air have borne the brunt of our activities. Just like a little need for intoxicants leads to an addiction and overdose, same was with the soil. With every passing year, the soil needed larger quantity of pesticides for a good yield of crop. In the run, the soil and water bodies were severely contaminated with pesticides and the direct effect was on the quality of the food crops that were being harvested. There is a famous saying in Hindi, “Jaisa Ann, Waisa Mann”, which translates to ‘Your mind becomes what you eat’ and that certainly stands true in context of Punjab. Impurity at bodily level with low quality and contaminated food, reflects in human psyche, leading people to fall prey to addiction. The standing testament of this heartbreaking situation is a small village of Maqboolpura, near Amritsar, popularly known as the ‘Village of Widows’. Most of the families have witnessed death of men in their families due to drug addiction.

Second, alcoholism and drug usage also bear direct relationship to the dynamics of structural violence. Structural violence in India can be seen in the form of militancy, terrorism, insurgency, and Maoism. The revenues from ‘drug trade’ are an inherent part of this structural violence cycle.

Unfortunately states like Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have also fallen prey to drug addiction. About a decade and a half ago, the states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand went through huge reforms. With the reforms, many educational and professional institutes burgeoned there. A large number of students from other places also came for education. Moreover, the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are also major tourist destinations. Along with this major demographic changes also took place here. Illegal immigrants came in huge numbers and settled here. All these came together make this a ripe market for drugs. Going by the police records of Uttarakhand, the number of cases, leads and arrests for drug addiction increased manifold times after these developments. In view of all these, the Chief Ministers of all the four states – Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand met in Chandigarh a month ago to discuss this issue and reach a solution.

Among other reasons, until even a few years ago, our mass entertainment mediums portrayed alcoholism in a very glamorous light, influencing young minds with a wrong notion of ‘being cool’. Also, a huge number of Indians from these states are travelling abroad for work. Along with foreign currency comes the assumed need for upward mobility and social status. Expensive alcohol and drugs are often seen as a social symbol of status, thus inviting addiction and the degradation of moral values.

Drug addiction is not just a social issue, it should be seen as a criminal act. Yes, a drug free society is a hard task to achieve but it is definitely not impossible.

(The author is associated with The Art of Living . He has been working in the field of conflict resolution across the country including North-East India and Jammu and Kashmir )