In the last decade, there has been a 74 per cent rise in overall cases under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. In the same period, the number of cases involving juveniles has more than doubled.
The drug menace ailing India has once again become the talk of the town following some high-profile arrests on charges of consumption and possession of narcotic substances aboard a luxury cruise off Mumbai.
However, what is alarming is the fact that drug cases involving children and adolescents have also registered a spike in the last 10 years.
As against 74 per cent rise in overall cases in the last decade under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, the number of such cases involving juveniles has more than doubled in the same period, albeit from a low base.
What is equally disconcerting is the rise in the number of children taking illicit drugs. According to reliable estimates, more than 40 lakh children consumed opioids, while 30 lakh consumed alcohol and inhalants. That was in 2018. The number may have gone up since.
In September 2020, the government had informed Parliament that the most widely used drugs among juveniles are opioids. Opium, morphine, heroin, smack and poppy husk fall under this category. Alcohol and inhalants follow opioids in the list of most consumed drugs among juveniles.
Juvenile cases registered under NDPS Act rose 21 per cent on-year to 264 in the pandemic year 2020. The number of registered juvenile cases under NDPS Act was 123 in 2015 and 82 in 2010, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
The government has launched Nasha Mukt Bharat Abhiyaan (NMBA) in 272 vulnerable districts with an aim to create awareness about the ill-effects of substance abuse among the youth, with special focus on higher education institutes, university campuses and schools.
Besides juveniles, the overall registered cases under the NDPS Act have also shot up in the last decade. Total cases rose by 74 per cent in the decade ending 2020 over the decade ending 2010.
Seizure of drugs in 2020 included 8.5 lakh kg of cannabis-based drugs and 2.99 lakh kg of opium-based drugs. Cocaine, psychotropic substances and medical preparations were among the other drugs seized in India.
An extremely alarming aspect is that the prevalence of opioid abuse in India (2.06 per cent) is over four times the Asian average (0.46 per cent) and over three times the global average (0.7 per cent), according to the Narcotics Control Bureau.
The drug trafficking menace in India is largely attributed to India’s close proximity to major opium-producing regions of Southwest and Southeast Asia, known as ‘Golden Crescent’ and ‘Golden Triangle’ respectively. The geographical location of India makes it vulnerable to transit, trafficking and consumption of opium derivatives in various forms along the known trafficking routes.