Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Increasing Drug Addiction Mixed With Decreasing Funds for Treatment is Alarming

Jehangir sounds the alarm about changing budgetary priorities and politics in Srinagar and New Delhi

(Mr. Jehangir Rashid Malik, 36, was born in Srinagar, and did his primary schooling at the Green Land Educational Institute in Hawal, Srinagar. He studies at the Sri Partap Higher Secondary School for classes XI and XII, and completed his Bachelor's degree through distance mode from the University of Kashmir. He subsequently graduated from the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the University of Kashmir with a Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism. As a journalist, he is associated with the Civil Society, a New Delhi magazine, and is the Editor of Kashmir Plus, a news and feature based portal of Srinagar. He began his career in journalism as a correspondent with the Kashmir Times, and later worked at the Daily Etalaat (English) and as a news editor with the Daily Khidmat (English). He has been awarded the Sanjoy Ghose Humanitarian Award for story writing by the Charkha Development Network, New Delhi, and has received fellowships from the Action Aid India, the Centre for Science and Environment, and the National Foundation for India, all based in New Delhi. In his leisure time, Mr. Malik likes watching cricket and listening to radio programs especially old melodies sung by legends, Mohammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar Ganguly.)

Treating Drug Addicts

Kashmir valley is already facing dearth of de-addiction centres and Hindustan National Social Security, popularly known as HNSS de-addiction centre has also stopped its functioning. The funds have been stopped to the centre and as such the de-addiction authorities are neither admitting any drug addict for treatment nor providing counseling to any drug addict.

“I became a victim of politics arising out of Amarnath land transfer row and funds were stopped to HNSS. The reason which was put forward was that my proposal reached four days late. If that was the case then the grants should have been stopped for de-addiction centres functioning in Jammu division as their files too reached late to the Ministry of Social Justice at New Delhi,” says Dr. Ghulam Nabi Wani, founder HNSS located at Khanyar just a few kilometres from city-centre.

Following this the de-addiction centre authorities stopped admitting drug addicts since April 1, this year. This has come as a serious setback to overall welfare and betterment of people who have taken to drugs over the years. With the help of counseling and subsequent treatment available at HNSS, many drug addicts were motivated to say goodbye to drugs after being counseled at de-addiction centre.

“The funds are due to us for 2005-2006, 2006-2007, 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 financial years and our losses have run into lacs. My estimate is that the centre has suffered a loss of one million rupees and we cannot afford to incur more losses. I have written to the Ministry of Social Justice that I am closing down the unit and the whole blame lies on them for the closure,” says Dr. Wani.

The HNSS founder says that he has lost interest and as such is no more enthused to run the centre which was one of the ways in making Kashmir a drug and narcotic free society. He says that his Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) was set up for a noble cause; but still then funds are needed for running an NGO, irrespective of its nomenclature.

“The affairs are sluggish as far as state of Jammu and Kashmir is concerned. It takes a lot of time in disposing off the files and then sending the same to the union government. We had sent our file to state government well before due date and it was due to delay on their part that the file didn’t reach the concerned ministry within stipulated time. But still then this is not a big issue and relaxation can be given at the direction of a cabinet secretary. But that is not the case vis-à-vis Kashmir valley and it is here we have been discriminated against,” says Dr. Wani.

HNSS provided counseling as well as treatment to people who had fallen in dragnet of drugs and narcotics. As a mini-hospital was being run by the centre some of drug addicts used to be admitted for two weeks there. These people would return to their homes and carry on with their routine work after being treated at the de-addiction centre.

In addition to Dr. Wani, his wife Dr. Hameeda Jan along with some counselors and psychologists comprised the team of HNSS. The HNSS team would motivate drug addicts and make them aware about ill-effects of drug abuse. In most of the cases they were able to bring about a change in the life of a particular drug addict; while as in certain cases the drug addict would find it difficult in saying no to drugs.

The HNSS de-addiction centre carried out a month long programme from April 9 to May 9 last year for detoxification of female drug addicts. As a result of the programme seven females who had taken up drugs were detoxified. The detoxified female drug addicts were literates and they had been lured to the menace of drug addiction by different sources.

The detoxified female drug addicts belonged to the age group of 18-33 years. While two of them belonged to rural areas the rest were city residents. These female drug addicts were found using synthetic drugs like Spasmo, Codeine, tranquilizers and glue. All these drugs are smell less and they are easily available in market.

In addition the centre received 20 telephone calls from other female drug addicts during the month long detoxification programme. These people got online counseling from Dr. Wani and his team.

Dr. Wani believes that counseling at three levels helps in motivating drug addicts to say goodbye to drugs and live a normal life. “Group counseling, individual counseling and family counseling are three important components in one’s life and they should be given due consideration,” he says.

Not only simple literate girls or females have taken to drugs, but professionals like female doctors too have fallen into dreaded net of drug addiction.

One month prior to detoxification course for females, Dr. Wani and his team treated five cases of female drug addicts at the centre and they were able to rehabilitate these affected girls. These girls belonged to the age group of 17-27 years and felt depressed due to one or the other reason.

(The article is a part of series of articles to be published in connection with the fellowship offered to the writer by National Foundation for India (NFI), New Delhi on the topic, ‘Drug addiction among females in Kashmir valley’.)

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