Manipur State Drug Policy- Points for Consideration
By Dr. Khomdon Lisam
Before I take up the main topic, I would like to invite a reference to the comment of one NGO on the proposed formulation of Manipur State Drug Policy published in the Poknapham Newspaper of dated 21 July 21, 2019 (page 9 column -2) which reads - “Mamangda sarkar na paikhatkhiba HIV-AIDS prevention and control programme da mai pakpa ngamdana leiramba matung HIV mahikka sagonnaduna hingliba meesing yaona programme asi paikhatlakpadagi mai pakpa ngamkhi.” This statement missed the correct version. The correct statement would have been – “In the beginning, the HIV/AIDS prevention and Control Programme was not so successful because of absence of Manipur State AIDS Policy during 1990-1996 but after passing of the Manipur State AIDS Policy on 3rd October, 1996 and implementation of this policy from 17 November, 1998 till date with the introduction of Harm Reduction Programme with the participation of NGOs, Drug Users and the people living with HI/AIDS, the programmes become successful. In those days, every department try to implement HIV/AIDS prevention programme based on their own knowledge, perception. The doctor refused to treat and handle people living with HIV?AIDS, the police arrested young people with injection marks on their forearms. terminated new recruits found HIV positive, school teachers refused to teach and interact with students on HIV/AIDS, militants shoot drug users in the thigh, parents prefer to keep their sons using heroin drug in the jail etc. Some NGOs establish private jails and keep drug users in bamboo cages with iron shakles. It enjoyed the support of some influential bureaucrats and it took me more than one year to close down the NGO through the Manipur Human Rights Commission. There were so many instances of discrimination , stigmatisation against and violation of human rights of drug users and people living with HIV/AIDS in Manipur. Now it has become a forgotten history. Formulation of the Manipur State AIDS Policy by convincing the Chief Minister, other ministers, MLAs, Bureaucrats, doctors, Academicians. Lawyers, Social Workers, School authorities, teachers, police personnel, NGOs, media personnel etc is not an easy job. It needs to work passionately working 14 hours a day, having latest knowledge and experience of what other countries are doing. When I brought the draft Manipur State AIDS Policy to the knowledge of the Health Minister in 1996, he asked me “ Dr. Is there any State in India having such a Policy on HIV/AIDS “. I replied “ Sir, Why not Manipur do it for the first time in India ?” He was laughing and said, “ Yes , I understand, Manipur can do it for the first time “ He immediately agreed and said “ This is very good, Hon’bleCM will agree –I will talk to him”. Later on, he was invited to speak on the topic in the United Nation’s General assembly in USA.
Why do I narrate this story now ? Because for developing a feasible, practicable, doable and effective Manipur State Drug Policy, we are likely to undergo almost the same procedure. The topic of “Drug Policy “ is not an easy topic. No country of the world has succeeded entirely in implementing Drug policies which they have formulated with conviction and dedication. Considering the great difficulties which I have experienced at the time of developing Manipur State AIDS Policy, I think I will share my experiences with the Stakeholders and those responsible for developing Manipur State Drug Policy for their guidance.
What is Drug Policy ?
A drug policy is the policy, usually of a government, (1) regarding the control and regulation of drugs considered dangerous, particularly those which are addictive. Governments try to combat drug addiction with policies which address both the demand and supply of drugs, as well as policies which can mitigate the harms of drug abuse, and for medical treatment. Demand reduction measures include prohibition, fines for drug offenses, incarceration for persons convicted for drug offenses, treatment (such as voluntary rehabilitation, coercive care, (2) supply on medical prescription for drug abusers), awareness campaigns, community social services, and support for families. Supply side reduction involves measures such as enacting foreign policy aimed at eradicating the international cultivation of plants used to make drugs and interception of drug trafficking. Policies which may help mitigate the effects of drug abuse include needle exchange and drug substitution programs, as well as free facilities for testing a drug's purity.
What is the Broad Legislative Policy on Drugs in India
The broad legislative policy is contained in the three Central Acts, viz. Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, and the Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988. The responsibility of drug abuse control, which is a central function, is carried out through a number of Ministries, Departments and Organisations. These include the Ministry of Finance, Department of Revenue which has the nodal co-ordination role as administrator of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 and the Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988.
Chief Minister’s Declaration
Our Hon’ble Chief Minister Shri N. Biren Singh has declared three important things:-
1.On 3 November 2018, there was a news report that “ Manipur Government declared “WAR ON DRUGS”, says Hon’ble Chief Minister, N Biren Singh”. (PTI-https://www. financial express.com/india-news/manipur-government-declared-war-on-drugs-says-cm-n-biren-singh/ 1371205/ )
2. On 18 July, 2019, Shri N Biren Singh declared that the Government is mooting plantation of Marijuana at selected places for medicinal purposes to check plantation of illegal poppy plants at different areas of the state. (https://www.pratidintime.com/ plantation-of-marijuana-mooted-in-manipur/)
3. Manufacturing , production and sale of local liqueur of Sekmai, Andro and other places may be taken up on commercial scale -not necessarily meant for use in Manipur
What Procedure we should follow for drafting the Manipur State Drug Policy ?
One important factor is the time. For me, it took more than one year from starting to finalization of the draft copy by the Empowered Committee under chairmanship of Chief secretary and 12 Principal secretaries/ Commissioners as members. Our dialogue and discussion on Manipur State Drug Policy may start from the Chief Minister’s Declaration mentioned above. We are discussing among ourselves why do the arrival of foreigners at the Sangai Festival in Manipur is so disappointing. It will continue to be so until we permit under licence the sale and consumption of Beer in Manipur. The Americans used to say ‘ without Beer, everyday will be Sunday”.
Coming to the point, we can discuss what procedures we should follow to bring out a feasible, practicable, doable and effective Manipur State Drug Policy. Based on my experience in developing the Manipur State AIDS Policy, I would like to suggest the following Procedures –
(1) Constitution of one Drafting Committee on Manipur State Drug Policy. This is the most important step of the procedure. The leader can make the difference between success and failure. The first question may be “ Why do we need Manipur State Drug Policy ? The membership may include knowledgeable and experienced people from seven areas :- (1.1) Supply Reduction- Law Enforcement Authorities-NAB and Police (1.2.) Demand Reduction-Prevention. Treatment and social reintegration. of Drug Users-Department of Social Welfare (1.3). Harm Reduction – Implementation of Targeted Intervention Projects under Manipur State AIDS Control Society, Reduction of Harms associated with injecting drug use-(1.4 ) NGOs and Social Activists (1.5 ) Media Agencies and Media Personnel (1.6) Academicians (1.7) Lawyers etc. The discussion may be started with the situational analysis of Supply Reduction, Demand Reduction and Harm Reduction –successes and failures. The points for consideration and discussion may be developed before hand and supplemented by the members as the dialogue goes on. The recommendations of the State Level Workshop and Conferences will be taken into consideration while developing the final draft. The final Draft of the Drafting Committee will be discussed and finalised at the Empowered Committee meeting. This will be presented at the State Legislators’ Conference . One important point is the language of the draft. The language of the draft should be accurate, simple and easily understandable. The language will reflect the beauty of the draft.
(2) Organising one Workshop for NGOs working in or running Anti-drug activities and rehabilitation centres and Social Activists, Women Groups, Student Bodies etc. They are expected to come up with some suggestions and recommendations for incorporation into the Draft Manipur State Drug Policy.
(3) Organising one Conference to be organised by the Manipur High Court bar Association and All Manipur Bar Association . They may concentrate on the possible amendments of the three Central Acts mentioned above and their implementation. They may recommend the possible solutions for incorporation in to the Draft Manipur State Drug Policy.
(4) Organising one State Workshop on Manipur State Drug Policy for 2.3 days. This is not a conference. Here the senior members of the Narcotic Control Bureau, NAB, Police Department Social Welfare, Manipur University, RIMS, JNIMS, MACS will participate. This will be a Workshop where all resource persons will be divided in to groups-every group will be given topics and the particular group will discuss and recommend actions which will be presented at the plenary session and finalised at the plenary session. The recommendations may be considered for incorporation in to the Draft Manipur State Drug Policy.
(5) Organising one Day State Conference on Manipur State Drug Policy for Media Agencies, Media Personnel on the topic “ Media Strategies for effective implementation of Manipur State Drug Policy”. Here only the Media Personnel will participate and their views on crucial points will be discussed.
(6) Constitution of an Empowered Committee under chairmanship of the Chief Secretary, Manipur. comprising of all Principal Secretaries and Commissioners. The Director of Social Welfare may be Member Secretary of the Empowered Committee. The Director of Social Welfare will send the copies of the Draft Manipur State Drug Policy at least 15 days before the scheduled meeting and personally request to come for the important meeting, The Chief Secretary and the respected members may raise many questions for which the Chairman of the Drafting Committee and the Director of Social Welfare has to answer and explain to the satisfaction of the members. The possible answers may be in the draft policy. The Chairman of the Drafting Committee and some other experts will be present in the meeting.
(7) Organising one State Conference exclusively for Legislators of all political parties. All Ministers and all MLAs will participate in the Conference and the Chief Minister, the Minister of Home, the Law Minister, the Health Minister, the Minister of YAS and the Minister of Social Welfare may be requested to speak for 20-30 minutes. Some experts will prepare the draft speech and discuss with the Minister concerned well in time.
(8) Passing of Manipur State Drug Policy by the State Cabinet. If the Cabinet passes the Draft, it becomes a State Policy. But for widespread awareness and knowledge , it is better to be discussed in the Manipur Legislative Assembly.
Points for Consideration
There are crucial questions for which many countries are finding it difficult to answer, The Drafting Committee may like to discuss the following questions :
(1) Why do we want to have a Drug Policy (2) Why do the trend of Drug Trafficking and Drug Use among the youths of Manipur is increasing day by day. (3) What are success stories and failure of Supply reduction, Demand Reduction and Harm Reduction in Manipur (4) Shall the State adopt the “War on Drugs” strategy or not based on the international experiences (5). Shall the State adopt the cultivation, production and selling of Cannabis Sativa/ Marijuana ( Ganja) under permission from Government of India.(6). If poppy plants are to be destroyed, the land owner may be supported with plantation of alternative crops at free of costs beforehand.. (7) Shall the State adopt the cultivation, production and selling of Opium ( Papaver Somniferum ) under licence from the Government of India.(8) Which drugs are to be banned in addition to those mentioned in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act-1985 (9) Which drugs are to be sold over the counter (10) Which drugs are to be sold under the treating doctor’s prescription (11) Shall the State exclude the Emergency Drugs (12) Shall the State exclude the Life Saving Drugs ? (13) Shall the State exclude the drugs used in substitution Therapy ? (14) Shall we exclude the antidote to Heroin or Opium overdose? (15) Shall the Manipur Government allow sale of Beers in Hotels and Restaurants or individuals above 18 years ? (16) Shall the Manipur Government permit manufacture local brand of alcohol for local consumption and export .(17) Shall the Manipur Government permit opening of “Opium Den” and “Ganja Den” in hotels of 3 Stars and above ? (18) Shall the Manipur Government permit opening of “ Shooting Galleries” so that the drug users do not inject drugs in public etc. etc.
The Drafting Committee may find out many other questions and try to find feasible, practicable answers to be incorporated in the final draft..
War on Drugs
I am referring here the experiences of three countries-USA, Philippines and Thailand
1.On 17 July 1971, U.S President Richard Nixon declared the "war on drugs" " identifying drug abuse as "public enemy No. 1." Nixon told Congress that drug addiction had "assumed the dimensions of a national emergency", and asked Capitol Hill for an initial $ 84 million for "emergency measures". Nixon signed his war on drugs into law on 28 January 1972. The word “WAR” is very impressive but it was proved to be a big failure. More than $1 trillion has been spent since then till December, 2012 and hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost.
2. Rodrigo Duterte assumed office of the President of Philippines on 30 June, 2016. The War on Drugs introduced by Rodrigo Duterte, has killed 3,967 "drug personalities" between July 1, 2016 and November 27, 2017. Antonio Trillanes, Senate of Philippine said the death toll in the government's “war on drugs” has surpassed 20,000 since President Rodrigo Duterte came to office in 2016. Another 16,355 homicide cases - from July 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017 - have been classified as "under investigation". Duterte reportedly said “ Drug trafficking and drug use is our priority no,-1. "I don't care about human rights, believe me."
3. On 14 January 2003, Thaksin Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand (In office 9 February 2001 – 19 September 2006 ) launched a campaign to rid "every square inch of the country" of drugs in three months. Order no. 29/B.E. 2546 (2003), signed on 28 January , 2003, called for the absolute suppression of drug trafficking by means absolute police and army action. He said we do not require Drug Traffickers in Thailand. It consisted of changing the punishment policy for drug addicts, setting provincial arrest and seizure targets including "blacklists", awarding government officials for achieving targets and threatening punishment for those who failed to make the quota, targeting dealers, and "ruthless" implementation. Thailand officially agreed that 2,819 people were killed between February and April 2003 in the War on Drugs. Police were conducting early morning raids and touched the lives of around 40,000 Thais. The government is forcing people, without trial, into what it calls "detoxification and rehabilitation". Drug Users were kept chained by their hands and feet 24 hours a day, for a month. During this period in 2003, I was in Chengmai (Thailand) . I was surprised that there was no protest of any kind by the people of Thailand against the War on Drugs.
Experiences of UN and other Countries
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that Sweden has one of the lowest drug usage rates in the Western world, and attributes this to a drug policy that invests heavily in prevention and treatment as well as strict law.
Netherlands is based on two principles: that drug use is a health issue, not a criminal issue, and that there
is a distinction between hard and soft drugs. Netherlands refuses to criminalize Marijuana (cannabis Sativa) users, while Portugal became the first European country, in 2001, to abolish criminal penalties for personal possession of all drugs, sending addicts for counselling instead. Italy has decriminalised possession of less than half a gram of most illegal substances.
The national drug policy of Switzerland was developed in the early 1990s and comprises the four elements of prevention, therapy, harm reduction and prohibition. In 1994 Switzerland was one of the first countries to try heroin-assisted treatment and other harm reduction measures like supervised injection rooms.
The U.S Government see the policy as a “third way” approach to drug control one that is based on the results of a huge investment in research from some of the world’s preeminent scholars on disease of substance abuse. The policy does not see drug legalization as the “silver bullet” solution to drug control. It is not a policy where success is measured by the number of arrests made or prisons built.
Canada just became the second and largest country in the world to legalize Marijuana (weed) nationwide. (Uruguay was the first.) Medical marijuana has been lawful in Canada since 2001, but prime minister Justin Trudeau’s successful campaign to open up recreational use is a landmark moment in the legalization movement.
On 17 January 1920 USA went dry by prohibition of alcohol through ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution. Prohibition ended with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment, which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment on 5 December , 1933.
The English introduced quality controls on all forms of liquor, opening hours of pubs, and the regulation of distribution outlets. Maybe more important, they created shorter working days, better housing and education
The topic is a very vast subject. The people responsible and the members of the various committees may like to study further for formulation of the Manipur State Drug Policy.
(The writer may be reached at [email protected])
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