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In one-and-a-half years, the Pune-based Muktangan de-addiction centre has reached out to more than 2,000 drug addicts in Tarn Taran district — one of the worst-affected ones in Punjab. A 32-member team is involved in door-to-door surveys and run a free-of-cost OPD.
The Fateh Foundation, Dorf Ketal Group and Pune-based Muktangan Mitra collectively developed the project after a detailed study of the current scenario on the issue of drug addiction in Punjab. Mukta Puntambekar, coordinator at Muktangan, said that they found the easy availability of natural drugs (opiates), prescription medicines and synthetic drugs at relatively cheap prices a serious problem. Many addicts say they started because their good friends forced them to or cajoled them gradually into trying at least once, and then they got hooked to drugs, she pointed out.
Punjab’s struggle with the serious problem of drug addiction is now reaching epidemic proportions, said Dr Gursharan Singh Kainth, founder director of the Guru Arjan Dev Institute of Development Studies, in a recent report submitted to the Centre and, according to reports from the Chandigarh-based Social Security and Women and Child Development department, an estimated 66 per cent of Punjab’s youth are thought to be taking medical or synthetic drugs.
“We decided to launch a joint initiative from October 2015 in Punjab and selected two blocks of Bhikhiwind and Voltoha of Tarn Taran district for the rehabilitation and skill development programme. The Fateh Foundation created a team of 32 dedicated community counsellors and we provided extensive training,” Puntambekar told The Indian Express.
“After a door-to-door sensitisation programme was conducted in over 20,000 homes, drugs de-addiction awareness in community through ongoing streetplays and through pictorial canvassing in every village, people have started coming forward for guidance, help and treatment. OPD services that include counselling, medical tests and psychiatric medication were started from February last year,” Sanjay Bhagat, coordinator, Regional Resource and Training Centre – West Zone of Muktangan Mitra, told The Indian Express.
Bhagat, who travels to Punjab once a month, said such has been the impact of the programme that in 2015-16, “we had 11,174 people filling in forms from Bhikhiwind and Voltoha blocks while the number shot up to 19,296 in 2016-17”. The number of OPD patients treated were 2,473 (April 1 to March 31, 2017) and 210 (February 21 to March 31, 2016), Bhagat said. “To check the impact of the programme, we conducted a urine test to check the presence of drugs among 523 persons at the OPD level. The urine test was negative in as many as 386 persons,” Bhagat said.
June 26 every year is observed as International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. On Sunday, a marathon was organised by Muktangan Mitra in association with the National Institute of Social Defence, New Delhi, Narcotics Control Bureau, Anti Narcotics Cell of Pune Police Commissionerate and Pune Running. The awareness campaign launched with the marathon is being organised for the whole month. Pune Police and Muktangan members will go to schools and colleges to take up awareness programmes.