A silent storm is sweeping Odisha. Use of drugs and intoxicants has reached menacing proportions. Odisha's alcohol use is higher than country’s average. So also, use of cannabis, opioid and sedatives.
Thirty-one per cent of males in the age group of 10-75 years and 16.4% of the population in this age group, use alcohol. Odisha was, in 2018, among the top ten states in regard to the number of people in need of help for alcohol problems with as many as 21 lakh people in need of help. 4.9 lakh people (third highest in the country) are in need of help for cannabis related problems; 3 lakh people in need of help for opioid related problems and 1.2 lakh in need of help in sedative related problems.
A report of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment of Government of India on Substance use magnitude of India, 2019 throws light on substance use which means use of illegal drugs or the use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs or alcohol for purposes other than those for which they are meant to be used, or in excessive amounts. Prevalence of current alcohol use indicates that Odisha's alcohol use is higher than country’s average. 31.8% of males in the age group of 10-75 years and 16.4% of the population in this age group use alcohol. Odisha was, in 2018, among the top ten states in regard to the number of people in need of help for alcohol problems with as many as 21 lakh people in need of help.
Odisha ranked third, after Sikkim and Nagaland, on prevalence of use of charas/ganja in the age group of 10-75 years with 4.5% of the population and having 4.9 lakh people in need of help for cannabis related problems. Among opium, heroin (brown sugar, smack) and pharmaceutical opioids, heroin is most commonly used opioid. In Odisha three lakh people are in need of help for opioid related problems and, as such, Odisha is among the top ten states with such problems. With 0.8% of its population in the age group od 10-75 years who use opioids in 2018, Odisha’s use is higher than the country average. Odisha with 1.2 lakh people in need of help in sedative related problems was 8th in the list of states with such problem. In 2018, 0.31% of its population in age group of 10-75 years used sedatives which was higher than the country average.
India’s geographical location - proximity to the major opium producing regions of South West and South East Asia, known as the ‘Golden Crescent’ and the ‘Golden Triangle’, respectively - makes it an active region of transit for drugs, either coming from or bound for Europe, Africa, South East Asia or North America. India, as such, has become increasingly vulnerable to transit, trafficking and consumption of opium derivatives in various forms. While a few Metros are major drug consumption spots, many smaller cities are major transit points and consumption spots as well.
Experts feel drug supply from Afghanistan will increase with the Taliban takeover. A few days ago, in India’s biggest drug haul, Indian officials reportedly seized nearly three tons of heroin estimated to be worth $2.72 Billion in Gujarat originating from Afghanistan. Some quantities of Drug keep coming regularly to Odisha. Brown sugar worth Rs 40 lakh was seized at Jaleswar on 18th September, 2021; three persons including a woman arrested. Illegal immigrants are suspected to be carriers from neighbouring country. It calls for more effective interception of illegal entry through sea route. On 21st September, 70 grams of brown sugar and a revolver with live cartridges were reportedly seized by police in Bharatpur area of Bhubaneswar. On September 22, Police seized 40 grams of brown sugar at Malatipatpur near Puri, seized vehicles, mobile phones, weighing machine and arrested three persons. A government vehicle is alleged to have been used to bring the brown sugar. Total seizure of brown sugar in Odisha per year was limited within 3 kg per year since 2013. It, however, increased to 34.2 kg in 2020 and in 2021 till end of August, the seized quantity is 34.457 kgs.
Odisha has been stepping up enforcement drive with more destruction of Ganja crops, more seizures of ganja, brown sugar, registration of more cases and more arrests under NDPS Act. While Ganja crop was destroyed in 4,632 acres in 2017-18, enforcement authorities destroyed crops in 23,537 acres in the crop year of 2020-21. Seizure of Ganja increased from 371 quintals in 2013 to 1549 quintals in 2020. Cases registered under NDPS Act in 2013 was only 364 cases and 442 persons arrested. The number of cases increased to 1217 in 2020 while the number of arrestees were 1896. In the current year, about 1249 quintals Ganja have been seized till end of July. About 60% of this has been seized from Koraput, Rayagada, Malkangiri, Kandhamal and Ganjam districts.
International Narcotic Control Strategy Report for 2021 refers to significant pharmaceutical drug abuse in the country. “Given India’s size and large population”, the Report states, “accurate estimates of the extent, pattern, and nature of its drug problem are difficult to quantify. Commonly abused drugs in India include heroin, opium, cocaine, ephedrine, cannabis, and MDMA (ecstasy).”
In view of the serious dimension the drug menace has assumed in Odisha, there has to be adequate strategy to control the problem. Government needs to address urgently issues like adequate staffing, training, adequate equipment and inter-agency coordination challenges. Enforcement agencies need greater ability to collect and analyse data and conduct complex investigations of criminal drug trafficking.
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