The tragic death of three young men in Tilak Nagar of West Delhi earlier this month, allegedly due to the consumption of spurious drugs, has once again brought the issue of drug menace in Delhi to the forefront.
The consumption of drugs in the capital has shifted from illegal drugs to substances referred to as volatile solvents or inhalants such as aerosol sprays, whiteners, markers, nail polish, glue, and shoe polish, among others. When inhaled, they have psychoactive (mind-altering) effects and are often taken without any knowledge of such harmful effects. Young children and adolescents are especially vulnerable and often fall victim to these easily available solvents.
“Our son was called over by his friends Amrit and Mahender (name changed) late in the night, and they forced him to taste some powder. We do not know what it was. As soon as he tasted it, he collapsed and died on the spot. We lodged an FIR against the two friends of our son, but no investigation was done. The police say that Amrit and Mahender themselves died a few days later due to the same drug overdose. We are yet to get the post-mortem report and the police have been blaming our son for being at fault. We feel helpless,” says a member of the family which lost their son to drug consumption.
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act was passed in 1985. It declared the production, manufacture, cultivation, possession, sale, purchase, transport, storage, and/or consumption of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance to be illegal. The government classified nine substances to come under the ambit of this Act. Ironically, while walking through the streets of Connaught Place and its adjoining areas in the late hours, this reporter found numerous street dwellers either consuming or selling drugs, including smack and charas at very cheap rates.
Volatile solvents or inhalants do not come under the jurisdiction of the NDPS Act. The police can neither impose restrictions on the sale of such substances nor book the people caught consuming them.
While speaking to sources within the police, it is clear that the problem is much more complex than it seems. Volatile solvents or inhalants do not come under the jurisdiction of the NDPS Act. The police, therefore, find their hands tied — neither can they impose restrictions on the sale of such substances nor can they book the people caught consuming them.
Taking cognizance of the problem, Jarnail Singh, AAP MLA from Tilak Nagar, raised the matter in the Delhi Assembly last week and asked for stricter regulations and stringent measures to curb the sale and consumption of the contraband.
Singh’s comments have highlighted that there have been several cases in the past which have gone unreported by the victims’ families fearing social stigma.
Senior police officials confirm that there have been about 200 cases registered under the NDPS Act in Delhi in the past two years, but the rate of conviction in proportion to the cases registered has been low because of lack of evidence. The offender is either not caught red-handed or the Human Rights Council interfered with the proceedings.
Dr Rajesh, resident doctor of an NGO for drug rehabilitation in Delhi, said: “The cases of volatile solvents are mainly seen in young children, either due to peer pressure or the lack of right guidance. These drugs directly affect the nervous system of the body causing dizziness, hallucinations, euphoria and slurred speech. Even after the withdrawal syndrome, relapses are very common among the abusers because of the easy availability of these items.” He strongly endorsed the fact that children in schools should be given better lessons on drug abuse and its lethal effects on the human body to nip the problem in the bud.
The Delhi government has assured its full commitment to fight drug abuse in the capital and would take effective measures to control the illegal sale of such substances. The government will launch a drug awareness drive across every constituency in the capital. It would be aimed at educating individuals and families about the ill effects of drugs and guide them about keeping children from becoming drug abusers.