UNODC Conversations: Indian Lawmaker PD Rai backs "Listen First" appeal, calls for unified response against drug menace


New Delhi, India/June 26, 2018: In an exclusive interaction with the  UNODC Regional Office for South AsiaDr. Prem Das Rai, Honourable Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) from Sikkim, shares a special message on the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, while stressing on the need to listen to children and youth to help them grow healthy and safe.

Watch the video message here:

Excerpts from the interview

Fighting the Drug Menace: "All of us are in this together"

Dr. Rai : "On the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, we in Sikkim are observing this day with great fervour. We want to send out a message to the general public and to our society, that all of us are in this together. We would like to resolve and minimise the problems associated with drug abuse."

Drug Abuse and Social Unrest: A Direct Link?

Dr. Rai : "Drug abuse is not only happening in Sikkim, but it is a national and international issue. It is also something that we find has its tentacles as close as where the Rohingya crisis is also taking place. I am sure that any form of political as well as civil unrest leads to a spurt in abuse of drugs".

Efforts against Drugs: Experiences from Sikkim

Dr. Rai : "Sikkim being a very peaceful state, we also face the problems associated with this in a different dimension. We have seen that the problem related to drug abuse has happened all over the state on account of a lot of it being through pressure from peers and from friends and associates. But what is the drug problem, has not been explained to them. So many of these decisions to take up drugs is actually done in the absence of a well-considered decision. In the light of that, we have started a program called SAATHI, which is supported by the Government of Sikkim.

Along with other sponsors, we have been able to raise the level of awareness in about 100 schools and touch the lives of over a 100,000 young adults as well as students. We have been able to do this in lieu of the fact that there is a program, which is well constructed and well-structured that goes deep into the schools. It teaches not only the students but also the parents, teachers and principals on how to deal with drug abuse at another level--that is at a level in which empathy and love are central. That's one of the reasons why  UNODC's theme of 'Listen First' is so very practical and useful.

We need to listen to these young minds on what is troubling them, why is it that they fall prey to drug abuse and how will we be able to stem the tide. The Government of Sikkim is very much concerned about this growing menace as well as understanding that it does have a link to some of the suicide rate statistics that emanate from our state."

Building Bridges: Fostering Collaborations

Dr. Rai : "We also join hands with the rest of the country in saying that we will get a far bigger response to this particular problem at a national level.  In so far as Sikkim is concerned, we will be able to share whatever experience we have in tackling this at the national level. At the national level, there is an anti-drug policy, we will support that. At the same time, whatever studies and surveys are being conducted nationally, to see how and why the problem of drugs is happening in different places such as Manipur and Punjab, local contextualisation and how we can then take this at a national level forward is something that we would all like to see. Specific legislation to this is also very much needed.

In Sikkim we have what is known as the Sikkim Anti Drugs Act (SADA). Under this Act, we have several ways of tackling drug abuse--there is an empathetic way, there is way by which we deal with traffickers, those who peddle and handle drugs. Peddlers are being handled at a different level while drug users are handled at another level. We want to see and differentiate between the suppliers of drugs and those who are innocently using the same.

At the national level, there is the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, but here I must say that the joint effort between law enforcement and other departments, such as the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, has to be a much stronger one. It also must take into consideration all the other stakeholders--such as NGOs working in this particular line, mental health specialists, and those who are running detoxification and rehabilitation centres. All of the entities that make up our society must work hand in hand to ensure that we get a well-considered societal response against drug abuse."

International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking: Listen First

Dr. Rai : On this particular day, the message that I would like to give is that every young life and every young mind is important. We need a healthy mind and a healthy body. So say no to drugs, listen first to young people and see what we can do and how we can take efforts against drug abuse forward."     

(As told to Mr. Samarth Pathak , Communications Officer, UNODC Regional Office for South Asia )