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War On Drugs: Good But Not Enough – The Missing Framework

FILE PHOTO of contraband drugs seized by Assam Police.

The current War on Drugs needs to evolve into a Social Construct from a Political Construct such that it does move beyond “politics of electoral anxiety.” This necessitates enhancing the current actions into opportunities for generation of empirical data on the Supply and the Demand sides.

By Amar Yumnam

When learned that the V-2 Rocket would not be as destructive as he had desired, Adolf Hitler uttered in 1944: “But what I want is annihilation!” This is what must have been the wish in the ongoing War Against Drugs in Manipur as well.

No war can be the Objective in itself. No war can achieve the objective in totality; this is true even in the case where Nuclear weapons would be employed in the aftermath none would survive and the land would be made unusable. Further war can never be a permanent means for achieving an objective.

The War on Drugs is a little different from the physical war like the World War I and II or the Russia-Ukraine War. But it is a war methodologically. Of late, there seems to be celebratory displays of reactions on seizures. This is exactly where we need to be careful. Let us not forget that the War on Drugs in its current form can never be sustained in the long run while the key players in the trade could as well be applying their mind on future course of strategies to resume the illegal acts. What we should rather be striving is to stop the re-emergence of drug-smuggling as thriving options. This is the moment now to think beyond the current War on Drugs and evolve a framework such that the programme becomes a sustainable policy.

The problem of drugs would always have a context – a socio-politico-economic context. By the same token the problem in the context of Manipur has to be appreciated with the socio-politico-economic realities of Manipur. We should remember that the current War on Drugs is only a Political Construct. The imperative and the biggest challenge is to make this political initiative evolve into a Social Construct for only then the movement would bear fruit and create a consequential socio-cultural atmosphere for reducing the tenability of large scale smuggling.

Now how to go about this? We must realise that there are two sides to the drugs smuggling – the Supply Side and the Demand Side. These two have two dimensions each – the supply could be based on both domestic and external products; so also the demand could be emanating from the local consumers as well as the consumers elsewhere.

In order that the Political Construct of War on Drugs evolves into a Social Construct Against Drugs, we should have a robust empirical understanding of the Drugs Scenario of Manipur. The current War on Drugs should not be treated as stand alone interventions. It should rather be utilised as opportunities for wide-scale surveys of the Supply-Demand scenario by incorporating the socio-politico-economic realities. This is because any policy on drugs should go beyond what Pitts called “politics of electoral anxiety.”

The major focus of demand studies should be the Youths for reasons socially known – they are the future of the society above all. A survey of the behavioural issues of the youths would establish the disconnect between Youth Welfare schemes and the youths. This would also throw up light on the differential social exclusion of the youths – from rich families and from the poor families. Globally it has been found that:

“• varied cultures of use surround particular types of drugs and groups of young people use different drugs for distinct purposes;

  • levels and frequency of use vary depending on what drugs we are talking about, including the context in which they are used and the purpose for which they are being used;
  • different drugs have distinct effects on users and may be more or less harmful both for those who use them and their surrounding communities, and
  • evidence suggests that young people view drug use more or less seriously depending on the type of drugs involved.”

We do not have empirical knowledge on these for evolving a successful policy intervention. While collecting the information, we should also be able to distinguish between the Drug Use in which the youths continue with his usual activities and Drug Misuse where the normal social functioning gets disturbed. The approach of the New Labour party in England may be recalled as to where the policy should be fitting into:

“• to help young people resist drugs and fulfil their true potential in society;

  • to protect communities from drug-related anti-social and criminal behaviour;
  • to enable people with drug problems to overcome them and live healthy and crime-free lives;
  • to stifle the availability of drugs on the street.”

The imperative for collecting sufficient data was also emphasised by the Declaration on the Guiding Principles of Drug Demand Reduction adopted by the General Assembly at its Twentieth Special Session in 1998:

“Demand reduction programmes should be based on a regular assessment of the nature and magnitude of drug use and drug related problems in the population … Assessments should be undertaken in a comprehensive, systematic and periodic manner, drawing on results of relevant studies, allowing for geographical considerations and using similar definitions, indicators and procedures to assess the drug situation.”

Similarly on the Supply Side too Manipur needs a detailed empirical information. The Micro-foundations and the Macro-dynamics of supply should be appropriately explored. The linkages between the supply-point and the consumption point should be established. The differential nature of the suppliers as boot-leggers and as wholesalers should be identified.

The current War on Drugs needs to evolve into a Social Construct from a Political Construct such that it does move beyond “politics of electoral anxiety.” This necessitates enhancing the current actions into opportunities for generation of empirical data on the Supply and the Demand sides. Once the adequate information are collected and analysed, appropriate social policies can be evolved. War on Drugs can never be a complete policy and would not bear appropriate fruit as stand-alone programme. It should be coupled by detailed surveys for the seizure data alone would serve little social purpose if any. These activities cannot be left to the care of the law-abiding agencies only; there has to be a continuum of engagement from the individuals to the social sector agencies of the state.

(Amar Yumnam is Visiting Professor at CESS, Hyderabad)

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