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.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Wasting Away

Imran looks at growing drug addition among Kashmiri youth

(Mr. Imran Majid, 22, was born in Bijbehara, Anantnag. He completed his schooling from the Public English Medium, Higher Secondary School, Bijbehara. Subsequently he joined the University of Kashmir, where he is studying for the Master's in Social Work (MSW) and is currently in the 4th semester. He has very little leisure time and in that time, he enjoys reading.)

Kashmir is Losing Productive Age Group to Drugs

With the rapid expansion of trade and commerce beyond national boundaries, the problem of drug addiction has become a global phenomenon. Though the drug abuse has been considered a social evil in Kashmir, it reached menacing dimensions in the nineties onwards of the previous century. Today almost a large part of population of all age groups in general and adolescent and youth in particular are drug abusers.

Be it a way to fight personal crisis, means to wipe the mental scars or just a sign of being cool, the youth in Kashmir have fallen into the net of drugs.

The expression “Drug addiction” defies any precise definition. It is a situation marked by irresistible intake of drug without paying attention to the negative and damaging consequences of such a compulsive indulgence. Traditionally opium and cannabis derivatives, LSD, Mandrax, cocaine, barbiturates etc. have been used by drug addicts. But recently the use of ‘synthetics’ that include stimulants like amphetamine and its derivatives, methcathinone, varnish, paint and glue as drugs for addiction has also increased. Not only this, the easy availability of prescription drugs across the counter in the market has worsened the problem. Present prevailing disturbed conditions in the valley have worsened the scenario besides phenomenal increase in other psychiatric disorders.

Reliable statistics on addiction are difficult to come by in Kashmir. According to a study conducted by the United Nations Drug Control Program in 2008, there are 60,000 substance abusers in the Valley. While Dr Mushtaq Margoob’s book, Menace of Drug Abuse in Kashmir, published in 2008, points out that the Valley have 2.11 lakh drug abusers. The difference in figures can be attributed either to the stigma around addiction or other factors, for instance addicts themselves tend to exaggerate, while their families try to downplay the problem. Any figure therefore should not be treated as absolutely conclusive but an approximation.

A significant recent shift in drug use patterns in India is the move from smoking to injecting drug use. Heroin, buprenorphine (tidigesic/tamgesic) and dextropropoxyphene (spasmo-proxyvan) are the most commonly injected drugs in India.

The problem has now reached the higher echelons of society, along with the lower strata, and includes children, and students in urban areas. Daily wage earners/laborers, rag pickers, truck drivers, medical workers and youths are all equally susceptible to the menace of addiction. They use cough syrup, alcohol, alprax and brown sugar and also take intra-venous injections of psychotropic drugs.

Currently, in Kashmir, 80 per cent drug-users comprise those who consume prescription medicines. Easy availability of pharmaceuticals across the counter has contributed to the enormity of the problem. Drugs containing opioids, such as Corex and Codeine are consumed by most addicts. Benzodiazepines like Diazepam, Alprazolam and cannabis derivatives like hashish, marijuana and alcohol are also responsible for the steady surge in addiction. For many school students including girls, items of common use like polish and glue double up as inhalants. The use of nicotine, Iodex, diluters, sleeping pills and inhalants like boot polish, fevicol and ink-removers has been observed in female addicts who might not have the means to obtain other not-so-easily available substances.

What is more alarming is the fact that the first time user belongs to the much younger age group. Steadily, Kashmir is losing the most productive age group to drugs, with manifold repercussions affecting society and economy. In July 2011, while addressing a gathering at a Town hall in Handwara, Justice Bashir Ahmed Kirmani claimed that Kashmir, particularly the capital city, has become a hub of social evils. He claimed that the capital city alone consumes 25,000 bottles of liquor every day.

Psychiatrists believe the reasons for drug abuse in Kashmir can’t be put in a straight jacket, they are various. They hold that the peer group pressure is the dominant factor contributing to the wide scale abuse of drugs in Kashmir. “Another main factor which can be held responsible for this abuse is the present technological world. You have internet, mobile phones, cable television and what not available to the children at home, schools and in the market. This has completely devastated the lives of our young population. These teenage boys and girls imitate what they see on the TV, internet etc. There is no parental control in our homes,” said a psychiatrist posted at Kashmir’s lone Psychiatric Hospital.

Besides, conflict in Kashmir has a major impact on the lives of the people. A vast majority of the drug abusers are an offshoot to the prevalent conflict. Though the conflict can’t be said to have a direct connection with drug abuse in all cases, indirectly it has a huge impact. Because once a traumatic event happens in a family, the other members of the family develop restlessness and other psychiatric disorders. This restlessness compels the people to resort to having drugs.

Thus to conclude, the present all pervasive plague of drug abuse calls for creating awareness among the masses particularly the youth. The menace has reached a point of no return with young students from the elite schools of the valley taking to drugs. Even there are reports about women taking to drugs. Experts say that the lack of parental control in the present societal setup has worsened the problem. So parental control is necessary. Besides, there should be awareness at schools also. This leads one to say people have to change. Coming to the legal framework in the State on the drug abuse, it is quite clear that the State lacks a comprehensive legislation on the abuse.

Recently the State Government repealed The Drug (Control) Ordinance, Samvat 2006 (Ordinance No. VI of 2006) which was the only comprehensive law till October 2011, however without any execution. The reason for the ineffectiveness of the Act was due to the non issuance of requisite notifications under the Act. The ordinance had been in place in the State since 1949 A.D. Not a single notification has been issued which resulted in the easy granting of bail and the discharge of the accused. Now there is a central legislation “The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940” which deals with some of the aspects of the problem under question. But there is a very limited role of the Police which alone knows the expertise of investigation. It is suggested that the State should adopt the Central Drug Act of 1950 which has the requisite notifications issued under it. So there is no reason to wait and watch?

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