February 10, 2021 7:40:21 am
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in collaboration with the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Tuesday released a Joint Action Plan on the “Prevention of Drug and Substance Abuse among Children and Illicit Trafficking’’.
The panel has proposed that affiliation to boards such as CBSE or ICSE be given on the basis of whether the schools have prevented alcohol and tobacco shops near the premises, inclusion of curriculum related to drug abuse by NCERT, CCTV cameras at drug stores and setting up of “prahari clubs’’ to empower children to monitor substance abuse in their schools and communities.
The plan has been conceptualised as a framework to wean children away from drug abuse and stop sale of drugs near schools, educational and childcare institutions. It also calls for “strategic interventions’’ to prevent reach of pharmaceutical drugs and other items used by children as intoxicants.
NCPCR officials said the need for ramping up monitoring and implementation of existing policies to prevent drug use by children was urgently felt as substance abuse among children in the country has been rising at an alarming rate.
According to a study conducted by NCPCR with the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre, the most common substances used by children and adolescents are tobacco and alcohol, followed by inhalants and cannabis.
The mean age of onset of substance abuse is lowest for tobacco (12.3 years) followed by inhalants (12.4 years), cannabis (13.4 years) and alcohol (13.6 years), the study found. The use of harder substances such as opium, pharmaceutical opioids and heroin usually takes place between 14.3-14.9 years and injecting substances at 15.1 years, the study found.
A study by Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights found that all children in conflict with law were into drug abuse. Also, 95.5 per cent children at child care institutions and 93 per cent of street children are into drug abuse.
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Another study by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 2019 found 4.6 lakh children in the country were addicted to inhalants, the only category of substance in which the prevalence was higher among children than among adults. The five states with highest prevalence of inhalant abuse among children were Uttar Pradesh (94,000 children), Madhya Pradesh (50,000 children), Maharashtra (40,000 children), Delhi (38,000 children) and Haryana (35,000 children).
The action plan mandates that “Prahari Clubs’’ be set up in schools in collaboration with Gandhi Smriti Darshan Samiti, in which children will discuss issues related to drug abuse and become monitors of the abuse.
“We are strengthening the system of monitoring and implementation of existing policies on drug abuse and illicit trafficking prevention, and one of the main cornerstones of this is the setting up of these clubs… we believe involving children themselves will be the most powerful tool against drug abuse,” says NCPCR Chairperson Priyank Kanoongo.
“The children can complain to school authorities who can inform education officials and they can alert the administration. Once this route is established, the local authorities can implement the rules. We want to increase the number of complaints that we and other authorities receive so that enforcement and monitoring can be ensured,’’ he added.
The action plan also mandates installation of CCTV cameras in schools and drug stores which sell schedule H, H1 and X drugs (drugs made from psychotropic substances). CCTV cameras in schools will not only be monitored by the school administration but schools are to have surprise checks by education officials who will check these, as per the plan.
There is a concern over the access of school children to pharmaceutical drugs.
“A separate register is maintained in drug stores for sale of the H, H1 and X schedule drugs. In the first phase, we will ensure CCTV cameras in pharmacies that sell these drugs in the 272 most vulnerable districts which have been identified, to ensure that these are not being sold to children. We are also pushing for digitisation of these sales registers, as well as entire supply chains of these psychotropic drugs, so we can digitally monitor how they are being used,’’ said Kanoongo.
As per the plan, NCPCR and NCB will create a convergence between drug experts from regulatory authorities, the social justice ministry, AIIMS etc, with NCERT and SCERT to explore how awareness related to drug abuse can be incorporated in the syllabus. CBSE and ICSE and other state boards will also be asked to withhold affiliation if a tobacco or liquor store is found within 100 m, or the distance stipulated by the state government, of an educational institution. Notices regarding prevention of drug use rules, penal provisions etc are also to be displayed at schools, outside education institutions and government offices.
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