Millennium Post

Meeting to combat menace of drugs in Darjeeling

Darjeeling: "The society has to be proactive and act with more responsibility to combat the growing menace of drugs in Darjeeling Hills," said Amarnath K, Superintendent of Police, Darjeeling.

A complacent society turning their face away from the problem will make matters worse, feel NGOs working in this arena.

A 12-member committee has been constituted in Darjeeling mainly comprising local residents to develop an action plan on how this menace can be checked. Incidentally a Darjeeling police helpline (8972921001) was set up on September 19 this year to deal with drug-related issues. However, till date only five calls have been received on this helpline.

A thorough introspection was conducted in a meeting in Darjeeling on Friday. The meeting was to chalk out a road map on citizen initiatives to mitigate the problem.

"On September 19 we had a meeting with local residents including representatives of NGOs, civil society, teachers and drivers. A helpline had been started by the Darjeeling police where people could call up seeking drug related problems. Since then we have received five calls, mostly general where one can't initiate any concrete action. The police since then arrested 49 persons and seized lots of drugs," added the SP. A 12-member committee was constituted on Friday with representatives from NGOs, teachers, civil society and the police force.

"This committee will plan out the way forward. The police is doing it's duty in the way of arrests and other legal aspects, looking into the supply side. Creating awareness, counselling and in some cases rehabilitation work will be looked into by the committee and volunteers," said Amarnath K.

This model as a pilot project will be working in the Darjeeling Municipality area along with the Tukvar and Lebong valley area. The abuser population is steadily on the rise in the Hills. "The teenagers and pre-teens are the worst affected. There are a number of reasons for this. A holistic approach needs to be adopted. Society has to understand the problem and come forward. We should not hide the problem, rather the matter should be discussed at great length in schools, colleges and at home," said Diraj Pradhan, senior counsellor of the Kripa Foundation.

Parents hiding the problem from fear of social stigma has further made the matter worse. "My mother put the fact that I was a substance abuser under the wraps for 10 years. I would appeal to parents to keep tab on their children. Check their timings away from home; keep a tab on their companions, discuss matters with them and if they are found to be substance abusing seek professional help rather than hiding it," said a counsellor, who was a substance abuser himself but has been clean (moved away from drug abuse) for the past 25 years.

The silver lining is that there are more than 300 former substance abusers in Darjeeling at present who are now clean. "We are willing to come forward and help," said the Counsellor. The Darjeeling police is planning a dedicated round the clock help desk to counter this menace. "The tourist help desk set up this year has been a huge success. We are planning a similar help desk for drug related issues," said Rahul Pandey, Deputy Superintendent of Police.

The police has also approached the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in Siliguri for logistic support. "The NBMCH has agreed to set up a ward where withdrawal cases will be provided treatment," added the SP.

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