"The state police have been engaged in efforts to stop the demand for narcotic substances rather than cut off the supply chain," said a senior Kerala police officer.
The Narcotic Control Bureau showered praise on the Kerala Police for its successful anti-drugs campaign and said it was a model for other states to follow.
The high praise came during a meeting conducted by the apex anti-narcotics body in the national capital, where senior police officials from all states and important NCB and Intelligence Bureau officers were present.
At the meeting, IG (Headquarters) P Vijayan of the Kerala Police offered key details of the measures brought into force to curb the serious drug menace which has afflicted parts of the state. In the past few years, the State has witnessed a significant jump in the number of drug abuse cases. State officials have said that Kochi only stands second to Amritsar in the number of abuse cases registered in the country.
After a recent Supreme Court order and the imposition and enforcement of stricter rules against the sale of liquor by the State government, Kerala is facing a sharp rise in instances of drug abuse and sale of illegally brewed liquor. Drug abuse has become a serious problem, especially on college campuses.
Most of the synthetic drugs coming into the state are from places like Goa and Mumbai, while most of the marijuana consignments are coming from Tamil Nadu and Telangana.
“The state police have been engaged in efforts to stop the demand for narcotic substances rather than cut off the supply chain. In Kerala, the police and the Excise work in tandem to prevent the flow of drugs. Besides, Kerala has a well-defined policing system, including special narcotic squads and several campaigns, to tackle drug syndicates,” Vijayan reportedly said at the meeting.
On an administrative level, the Kerala Police has set up a unified task force to monitor “multi-modal and multi-layered smuggling of narcotic substances” in the State, reports The Hindu. This task force, under the command of Inspector General of Police (Kochi Range) P Vijayan, is divided into district-level units called District Anti-Narcotic Special Action Force (DANSAF), according to the publication.
The DANSAFs are led by a police officer either of the rank of Deputy or Assistant Superintendent.
“Besides Intelligence, the teams will liaise with Central enforcement agencies and other States to collect, collate and share information on the supply of drugs,” said P. Vijayan. “To begin with, we will prepare a list of narcotic offenders from the past ten years and constantly monitor their activities.”
However as stated earlier, the focus of the Kerala police is on stemming demand. For example, the Pathanamthitta district police last year posted a series of memes using popular scenes from Malayalam movies to spread awareness among school and college students in their areas.
The underlying message is one of safety for children from drug abuse and that the local police is always there to assist them.
Prior to this awareness campaign, the district police had launched hotline numbers (7025633911 and 9497931258) that children could use to report any drug-related activities in and around their schools. “Through this campaign, we also aim to correct any fears and misconceptions among students over informing the police. We are trying to tell them that providing information will not adversely affect them in any way,” said a senior officer to The News Minute.
In addition, the Kerala Police has launched a series of anti-drug abuse awareness programmes in various schools and colleges across the state. They even managed to rope in Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli to further their anti-drug abuse campaign.
In November 2017, Kohli, along with Dinesh Karthik, Axar Patel and Mohammed Siraj participated at the launch of the Kerala Police’s ‘Say Yes to Cricket and No to Drugs’ campaign at the Chandrasekharan Nair stadium in Thiruvananthapuram. The Kerala government also started the ‘Clean Campus, Safe Campus’ initiative to rid school and college campuses of the menace of drugs, alcohol and tobacco products. Approximately, 45 lakh students in 12,000 schools are part of this extensive anti-drug abuse initiative.
As stated earlier, these drugs make their way into Kerala from other states. At the NCB meeting, one of the key recommendations was that these efforts would only pay dividends if states can coordinate better to stem the flow of inter-state trade. In 2017, the Kerala police registered a total 9,242 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) cases last year compared to 5,924 in the year before. The Kerala police believe this is a sign of greater efficiency.
The fight against drug abuse, however, isn’t merely about better policing. It’s a public health issue, and other arms of the state have a significant role to play.
Kids under the influence need better counselling and rehabilitation centres require a complete revamp. Fighting against the tide of individuals relapsing into addiction is another significant challenge.
Better access to Hepatitis C treatment, among other medical facilities, are critical elements in the fight against drug abuse. The fight against drug abuse requires more than better police enforcement, although it’s a good start.