By Dr. G. Shreekumar Menon
Mangaluru, April 28, 2023: The twin problems confronting the youth of Karnataka are unemployment and drug addiction. While unemployment is a national and international issue and difficult to resolve in this era of globalization, and the impending threat of artificial intelligence taking over human activities, drug addiction is something that can be curbed. However, it is disappointing to note that not a single political party in Karnataka, in their election manifestos have expressed their desire to eradicate the drug menace that is overpowering the youth. Educational hubs of Bangalore, Mysore, Mangalore, Manipal, Tumkur, Shivamogga, Bellary, Belgaum, Gulbarga, are all severely affected by drug addiction among students. Most unfortunately, educational hubs are also becoming drug hubs. The total quantity of drugs seized in Bengaluru in 2022 was 3,913 kg, more than five times the 764 kg seized in 2018. The total value of drugs seized in the city in 2022 was Rs 89.53 crore, the highest ever. In the first 74 days of the year 2022, Karnataka registered an average of 16 drug cases a day, registered for consumption, possession and dealing in narcotics. In 2021, the Bengaluru police arrested 5,644 drug peddlers in 4,275 cases and seized drugs worth around Rs.59 crore. This has been the highest narcotics-related arrests and recovery in the city police’s history so far.Bangalore, Kolar, Mysore, Kodagu, Udupi, Ramangara are among 272 districts in the country identified as most vulnerable to excess use of drugs.
Children and young people are appropriately at the forefront of public concerns about drugs and the drug trade. Politicians need to take the initiative to create sustainable interventions that aim to reduce drug use and prioritize treatment, not criminalization. Instead, we find, politicians abusing each other using cheap expletives, promising free bus rides, free electricity and so on. Nobody is even talking about the grave drug problem ruining the lives of thousands of youngsters.
The most unfortunate lacunae in the democratic process are that there is no performance audit of MP’s/MLA’s. Even government servants have to submit their annual Performance Appraisal Reports, private sectors like IT and Pharma regularly monitor employee performance, but for posts of paramount importance like MP’s/MLA’s, there is no performance audit of any kind. People need to prioritize their requirements and impress upon their elected representatives to work for that goal, otherwise they will just get 10 kgs of free rice and such other inconsequential freebies, for eternity.
The Human Development Index (HDI) was created by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to emphasize that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone. A long and healthy life is one of the dimensions of HDI. Elected MP’s/MLA’s need to examine the social and economic impact of drug abuse in their constituencies from a broad national and international perspective. Based on this examination, they have to suggest how problems of drug abuse prevention and control can be addressed in a constructive, coordinated manner. They need to focus on the chain of drug production, distribution and consumption, in their constituencies, and on the quality of monitoring of the drug scenario by various enforcement agencies. They also need to focus on the social impact of drug abuse and its consequences for families, health, education, crime and employment.
Today there is more awareness of the problems of illicit drugs and drug trafficking than ever before. How to translate that awareness into constructive action is the major challenge that elected representatives need to concentrate on. The high-risk, high-gain nature of drug trafficking is well known. Profits from the drug traffic flow back into the coffers of sophisticated criminal organizations with financial interests in other illicit areas, such as prostitution, gambling, and liquor industry. In some cases, drug dealing may be undertaken by fundamentalist and terror groups that need huge sums of cash to support illicit arms purchases, political insurgency and terrorism. For example, drug enforcement efforts are often hampered by criminal cartels for control of the drug trade. Governments that are unable to control major fundamentalist challenges representing a direct challenge to their authority, are unlikely to be successful in controlling a drug trade that generates enormous amounts of money to buy influence, sponsor agitations, and weapons. Nor will such governments find it easy to implement programmes of national development in the areas most vulnerable to consumption of drugs.
Rapid social, economic and technological changes are happening in Karnataka, but this may weaken the sense of family and reduce the sense of belonging to other people, groups and places. Stability of relationships, environment and expectations is a powerful force in helping people manage their lives, especially important for children and young adults. As elected representatives, yeoman service can be rendered if MP’s/MLA’s concentrate on eradicating drug abuse, for which purpose it is important to include an agenda “Drug free Karnataka” in every election manifesto.
Dr. G. Shreekumar Menon, IRS (Rtd), Ph.D. (Narcotics)
Former Director General of National Academy of Customs Indirect Taxes and Narcotics & Multi-Disciplinary School Of Economic Intelligence India; Fellow, James Martin Centre For Non Proliferation Studies, USA; Fellow, Centre for International Trade & Security, University of Georgia, USA; Public Administration, Maxwell School of Public Administration, Syracuse University, U.S.A.; AOTS Scholar, Japan. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org