The government’s efforts for a nationwide assessment of drug abuse has hit an unexpected hurdle. The country’s largest survey body, the National Sample Survey Organisation, has said it cannot carry out the job as it does not have the required expertise. NSSO has, however, said at internal meetings that it would provide technical assistance to any agency that takes up the job.
With the country’s ace survey body unsure, the matter has been in a limbo for a year now.
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has approached the offices of Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot and Minister of State Vijay Sampla to get NSSO to change its stand. Sources said Sampla has even written to the organisation. However, the efforts are yet to yield positive results.
As a fallback option, the Ministry is learnt to be considering handing over the task to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
One of the problems in carrying out a drug abuse survey is that unlike alcohol cases, identifying drug abuse victims might not be easy as respondents are not forthcoming with information.
There are specialised scientific survey tools for the job, but it requires an agency with technical knowhow and field experience to carry it out.
If AIIMS takes up the job, it could use its network to track those who seek medical help for drug dependence.
The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation had constituted a Working Group with NSSO as nodal organisation to devise modalities of an advanced pilot survey in Punjab and Manipur.
The report of this survey, much smaller in size, is likely to come by June.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had dedicated an entire Mann Ki Baat radio programme on the menace of drug abuse, has been keen to get the survey going.
Last year, the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry had released Rs 3,074 crore to states under Central Sector Scheme of Assistance for Prevention of Alcoholism and Substance (Drugs) Abuse.