It is indeed no surprise that several inmates were found caged in a so-called rehabilitation centre at Yaingangpokpi on the fringes of Imphal East district bordering Ukhrul district. The matter came to light when a woman inmate related her sorry predicament in social media, after which a joint team of officials from Social Welfare, Health and Police raided the centre. The inmates were rescued and subsequently rehabilitated in some government centres for the time being. As it turned out, the inmates were mostly drug addicts, mentally impaired persons and some elderly folks disowned by their own sons and daughters.
The Chief Minister himself posted the same in the social media and warned the general public to be wary of such centres. Sadly, this is not a recent phenomenon and has been going on for quite some time unchecked and uncared for.
Sometime ago, an inmate of a Drug De-addiction cum Rehabilitation Centre at Utlou Chanura Heibi Makhong in Bishnupur district was allegedly beaten to death by staff members of the rehab centre.
The said rehab centre had since been closed down amidst protests and demands from several citizen groups. But, the story does not and should not end here. There are still a number of privately run rehabilitation centres in the state, most of which are unregistered and unregulated. Now and then, we have been hearing about instances of harassment and torture inside the rehab centres.
As reports say, there are more than 100 drug rehabilitation centres being run by private organizations in Manipur alone, and God knows how many of them are operating legally or with authorisation from the state Social Welfare department.
One still shudders in remembering the wanton acts of cruelty and of moral debasement in de-addiction centres during the height of heroin addiction and widespread drug abuse by youths in the 80s and 90s. In one particular de-addiction centre in the southern district of Churachandpur, addicts were chained like animals and made to wallow in mud and slime fully naked. In those days, addicts were tonsured and excommunicated by the society and the vigilante groups while the police were at wit’s end in dealing with the problem and most of the time they had no other option but to send the drug addicts to jail for a period of time as per the desire of the family. There was simply not a single protocol during those days for dealing with the drug addicts.
Recently, representatives of such rehab centres apprised the state Chief Minister of the problems faced by them for lack of proper regulations. It is the responsibility of the Social Welfare department to monitor the functioning of all de-addiction or rehabilitation centres in the state, and all those centres operating without proper sanction or expertise should be disbanded.
According to international standards, a rehabilitation centre should have a Warden, at least a doctor on duty, trained counsellors probably from among reformed addicts and male nurses. Besides, the centre should have entertainment and recreational facilities for the inmates. During the stay at the centre, it is absolutely required of the staff members to maintain close association with the family members of the inmate.
The mission of bringing back the drug addicts into the mainstream must be followed and the rule-book or the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) established by the state authorities for operation and running of such rehab centres must be put into practice. As per the SOP, if any drug user is picked up, he should be produced before the executive magistrate, and the verification should be done by a police officer who is not below the rank of a DSP.
The drug user has every right to choose the rehabilitation centre, as per the protocol. However, the SOP is followed more in violation and concerned authorities simply do not seem to find time for monitoring these centres. In fact, rehab centres have become a booming business for some ex-addicts where the family is charged an amount ranging from Rs 8,000 to 12,000 per month for housing an inmate. In such circumstances, many more instances of torture and even death are bound to happen. Time for the state to act.