A few days back, 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 victim is one Lukram Sanjay alias Ningthou of Phoijing Awang Leikai. He is survived by his wife and a two-year-old daughter.
According to his family, Sanjay was a drug user and he along with another user was arrested by Nambol Police on May 31. His family members were asked to come to the police station where they agreed to keep him at the drug rehab centre. On the same day, he was handed over to the family by the police, Sanjay was admitted to the Revive Drug De-addiction cum Rehabilitation Centre at around 9 pm. 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.
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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 organisations 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, who were but victims of the phenomenon prevalent everywhere in different corners of the world.
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 for 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. Most of the centres do not have the mandated personnel required for running a rehab centre and most of the staff members are an excuse for trained people.
In fact, rehab centres have become a booming business for some ex-addicts where the family is charged an amount ranging from Rs 8000 to 12000 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.