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.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tackling Drug Addiction

Moazum bemoans the lack of adequately equipped detoxification centers in Kashmir

(Mr. Moazum Muhammad is a journalist working for the Greater Kashmir)

DRUGS: Sure Dose to Disaster

Ten patients visit drug de-addiction centre on a routine a day for rehabilitation therapy. Everyone has a harrowing personal account to narrate. A few among them interact with each other while others keep to themselves. Withered faces sunken eyes, and suspicious looks – this is how they appear.

One by one, a female doctor attends them. Each drug abuser is accompanied by his mother. The hapless mothers seldom take their eyes off the faces of their sons. They can see disaster writ large on these faces, nevertheless, hopeful to fight the impending.

Around 1 PM, a woman from the city drops into the de-addiction centre along with her ward. She appears helpless, and uneasy on her arrival in the room.

The doctors attends her tenderly. Her son Sameer Ahmad (name changed) donning a pheran is intoxicated at this time. His head hanging down and eyes hlf shut. He is the victim of brown sugar and cannabis since five years. Hailing from a poor family, he sells apples on a handcart, at Hawal in the Old city.

“I earn around Rs 800-1000 per day,” he revealed. “This entire amount is spent on buying brown sugar from a woman – Aunty, they call her- at Hawal in Sheikh Colony. She is famous in her area; even a kid can guide you to her house. Half-gram of this drug is sold at around Rs 300.” Sameer spells out the details.

Sameer hasn’t ruined his own life only, he has devastated the family; four sisters and a younger brother.

Medical Officer, Dr Sheeba Rather noted down each word from him, required for his treatment, as well as classification in the room. “By noting down each word he utters, we make a case history for treatment,” she says.

Sameer’s mother pleaded before the doctor that she had registered him earlier as well in the Centre. But his son compelled him to withdraw the amount of registration by beating her at home. “Nobody talks to him (Sameer) at home. Everyone has abandoned him for his acts. Only I am pursing him so that he gets well again. Six months back I registered his name here but he forced me to withdraw the cash. Not only this, he stole ornaments and money from home for his addiction,” she narrated, asking for concessions in the charges for investigations.

“His addiction has ruined us. He is the cause for my heartache. Please favour me by treating him,” she implored.

Asked how he consumes the drug, he opened a pack of chewing gum from his pocket. Its wrapper, he said, is used in the process of consuming it.

“In absence of brown sugar, I feel cold, backache, pain, and uneasiness. The only reason for taking drugs is to ease out my pain,” he said.

Surprisingly, not only economically weak fall prey to addiction but Government employees too are into the habit of killing themselves. It’s the fourth week of rehabilitation treatment for Safi Amin (name changed) from North Kashmir, who is getting married soon. Since five years, he is consuming codeine rich syrups but as he is about to get married, he wants to be like another normal man. Not a drug abuser this time, rather a caring husband.

“For 26 days, I am out of drugs here. Everyday I would consume eight codeine syrups at my home which dented my pocket heavily for five years. As my marriage is nearing, I no longer want to ruin my life. I want to give up drugs,” he seems to be saying with a great degree of resolve.

His family, he said, learnt about his habit last year when they found his cupboard stuffed with syrups. But he didn’t abstain even after that. “My family insisted to desist from it but hardly I ever listened to them. Only following successful rehabilitation therapy of my friend in this centre, I followed him here,” he says. “Normally I would buy huge quantity of corex from Karan Nagar, Magam and other places. In the first instance I consumed a spoonful of the drug and suddenly tolerance grew so much that eight bottles would be like a spoon.”

The drug de-addiction centre is the sole rehabilitation centre for abusers run by the Police in the valley. It is located inside the fortress of police control room Batamaloo. Experts attribute failure of health department in opening such centers in the valley, where consumption has increased all time high. The common drugs in place are liquor, diluted fluid, cannabis, hashish, medicinal opiates (spasmo, codeine phosphate, alprox tablets) and marijuana.

Dr Sheeba, who is treating addicts here for past nearly one year, explains the levels in treating such patients. The main thing in a patient, she said, is to have the required motivation level.

“As per our protocol, firstly, we treat the patients on daily basis to ensure motivational level. Besides we carry baseline investigations of the patients. After learning about history of abuser and the type of drugs used. We admit the addict here except high risk ones,” she said.

The doctor said that school goers are much vulnerable to drugs particularly diluters. Recalling a case, she said a young lad from a reputed family with medico background had fallen to drugs and her handicapped mother would come to the centre for treatment with him. “That case was horrible particularly, the fact that her mother was a doctor,” she added.

Clinical Psychologist and Head of Department Drug de-addiction centre Dr Muhammad Muzaffar Khan revealed that the prime causes for addiction are socio-political disturbances, easy availability of drugs, lack of parenting, rapid urbanization and disturbed social security system owing to two decade armed conflict in the valley.

He underscored that ideal drug de-addiction centre should be state run institute where more focus should be placed on rehabilitation of the young addicts.

“The young addicts should be imparted vocational training through ITI and other such centers. The medicines prescribed in the de-addiction centre should be made available free of cost by the state as families would already have suffered mental agony and trauma,” Dr Muzzafar said.

The drug de-addiction centre started by Police three years ago, he said, has led to de-addiction movement in the valley as policymakers including Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has recognized the grave threat posed by addiction.

According to statistics of United Nations office on Drug and Crime, around 60,000 youth are addicted to drugs while about 4,000 females have fallen prey to it in Kashmir region alone.

“Despite the alarming trend no proper survey has been carried out. The grave issue is that there is no centre for female addicts available here,” he says.

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