Time to stop rampant arbitrary pickup for admission in private de-addiction centres
In Manipur, the trend of forceful admission of a person to private de-addiction centres, citing addiction to drugs, by picking them up arbitrarily has become a new normal nowadays.
Arbitrary or forceful pickup of a person for admission in private de-addiction and rehabilitation centres is rampant in Manipur which has a high population of alcohol and drug users.
It is not only the drug menace that is posing a tough battle to the people in the state. They are also battling against human rights violations associated with it.
To curb the gross human rights violation allegedly taking place in de-addiction centres across the state, the state Social Welfare department had issued a notification to private de-addiction centres in the state to follow regulations as per the guidelines provided by the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry.
Despite it, several untoward incidents and illegal activities are reportedly continuing in many private de-addiction and rehabilitation centres.
On December 2, following the directives of the High Court of Manipur, the state social welfare department had notified the regulatory guidelines.
Reacting to it, the community of drug users had demanded formulation of guidelines specific to the state.
The department, however, issued the Central ministry guidelines as they felt that formulation of state specific guidelines would take at least one year.
Prescribed drug treatment is one of the important strategies to control drug menace. As such, among the nine major components of the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry to prevent alcoholism and substance (drugs) abuse, rehabilitation of addicted persons is one of the major components.
As per official regulated norms, a drug or alcohol addicted person should be admitted to a de-addiction and rehabilitation centre with the consent of their family members.
In Manipur, however, the trend of forceful admission of a person to private de-addiction centres, citing addiction to drugs, by picking them up arbitrarily has become a new normal nowadays. Most of the time such illegal activities are carried out by private de-addiction centres with the support of some like-minded local clubs.
Manipur being one of the states in India highly affected by drug menace since the 1990s, there is a great need of private de-addiction centres, as centrally-sponsored rehabilitation centres are less in numbers. It may be noted that there are only 21 centrally-sponsored de-addiction and rehabilitation centres in the state.
However, several private de-addiction and rehabilitation centres charge a good sum of amount, while alcohol and substance abuse persons mostly belong to economically backward families and are unable to afford the fees
Setting up of private de-addiction centres with business motive would result in demeaning the significance of having rehabilitation centres in the state. It has, in fact, started to cause spark off major concern in the already tough battle against the drug menace in the state.
Since the past few years, many private de-addiction and rehabilitation centres have been set up in the state. Today the number of such centres in the state has increased beyond 50. Among this good number of de-addiction and rehabilitation centres, just a few of them might have ensured yeoman service to the helpless people.
The frequent cases of forceful pick or arbitrary pick up of alcohol or drug users to keep them in rehabilitation centres are clear examples that indicate that maximum number of de-addiction centres are set-up as profit-making business centres.
One can witness at least three to four private de-addiction centres located within just a few km radius. Perhaps, to get more clients in the rehabilitation centres, such arbitrary or forceful pick-up might have been carried out.
“If the people really wanted to bring drug abusers into the mainstream by keeping them in rehabilitation centres, please do it with good intention. Otherwise, it will bring more fallout. If those group of people really wanted to provide treatment to rectify the wrong path chosen by drug abusers, then why can’t they arrange to admit at government-sponsored rehabilitation centres, where the treatment charge is minimal,” said one of the victims of arbitrary pick-up admitted at private rehabilitation centre, Thoibi (name changed), in an interaction to the Imphal Free Press.
Narrating the incident, Thoibi, who was once a drug abuser and presently under Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST), said that the incident of her forceful pickup took place on February 18 at around 1 pm, in Bishnupur district. A group of around four people came and forcefully stopped her vehicle while she was on her way to attend to some personal work.
‘Some people came and forced me to stop my vehicle while I was going for my personal work. I don’t know who exactly they were. Being a drug user at one point of time, I easily predicted them as those who drive around to pick up alcohol or drug abusers to admit them at rehabilitation centres forcefully. I negotiated with them for a while as I was under recovery from drug addiction. As they declined my request, I had to accept their order to get into their car. They took me to one of the local clubs which is located in Bishnupur district itself. From the conversation they had during the journey, I was confirmed that they were none other than people who go for a drive to pick up people to admit them at rehabilitation centres to get some money,” Thoibi, who is a trans-woman recalled.
The incident did not end with the forceful pickup. The unknown men took her to a local club in the area and physically assaulted and threatened her.
“The saddest moment on that day was that they even mounted pressure on my family members to admit me in a rehabilitation centre. They called up my sister over the phone and informed her that I was caught for using psychoactive substances, which I completely denied. They threatened my family members that either I should be kept in a jail or admitted to a private rehabilitation centre,” she recounted.
Thoibi continued and said that the team had admitted her at one of the private de-addiction centres in Imphal West. But with great effort, her family members rescued her and she came out from the centre on that day itself.
While expressing concern and the hope that others should not encounter or face such trouble, she said that “it was a horrible day and I really don’t want anybody to undergo such trouble. On that day I felt like committing suicide. It is high time for the government or the authorities concerned to control such random activities otherwise any youth either drug users or not may become prey in de-addiction centres.”
The victim of forceful pickup appealed to the authority concerned to give some attention to address the ever-increasing private de-addiction and rehabilitation centres. She urged them to cancel the registration of those centres that do not follow or violate the mandated regulatory guidelines or norms.
Such a similar kind of case was also faced by a person from Imphal West. The incident took place on January 9 where the victim was forcefully picked up from Chingmeirong at around 1 pm.
The 29-year-old victim, Mani (name changed), narrated to the Imphal Free Press that on January 29, one of his friends called him to come to Chingmeirong at around 1 pm to accompany him on some work. With good faith, he went to meet his friend. But on reaching the place, a group of people forcefully picked him up and brought him to a private de-addiction and rehabilitation centre located in Imphal East. But he later learned that his friend, who called him out, was among the members of the team.
“One of my friends called me to come to Chingmeirong near Driving School on January 29, 2021. In good faith I went there. But when I reached the place I was arbitrarily picked up by a group of people. Later I came to know that my friend who called me out had a hand in case of my arbitrary pickup.
“While they were trying to pick me up from the spot, which is not even a traffic point, I had a scuffle with them for a moment. They snatched all my belongings and told me that they came to take me as per my family’s request. But whatever they said was totally wrong and fabricated.
“Everything was like drama. What they said to me was different from what they told my family members. They told my family members that I willingly came to stay in their de-addiction centre. And I was forcefully made to stay in their rehabilitation centre for 45 days,” he lamented while stating the reasons his family members could not rescue him from the group of people.
Mani said he didn’t get a chance to meet his parents even once so as to confirm whatever words told to him by the team during the arbitrary pickup was true or not. Only after 20 days, he got the opportunity to meet his parents and the truth was revealed that day.
“Although I had to undergo a lot of suffering and pressure under their control, during my stay in their de-addiction centre, I learned everything about their illegal tactics in running their rehabilitation centres. Maximum of the clients like me were arbitrarily picked up,” he claimed.
Mani also said that the condition of the private de-addiction centre was pathetic.
“There is no well-qualified counsellor. The number of clients is usually 40 but there are only two toilets for the entire inmates and the staff. We stayed in a dormitory. But they charged us Rs 7,500 per month, excluding medical bills,” he informed about the condition of the centre.
Local dailies had reported such similar cases which happened at a centre in Kakching district.
While the Imphal Free Press interacting with one of the petitioners who petitioned to form state specific regulatory guidelines for private de-addiction and rehabilitation centres, RK Nalinikanta said that providing proper treatment helps a person to overcome drug addiction.
The state has been facing drug menace for over four decades. Many drug addicted persons were successfully cured or recovered after getting proper treatment, he said.
But unfortunately, the treatment programme today is completely in a failed state despite the increase in the number of de-addiction and rehabilitation centres. The main reason cited for the failure is maximum de-addiction centres were started only with business motive rather than human service, said Nalinikanta, who is also the president of the Community Network of Empowerment.
While condemning the state government for not taking up any initiative to control increasing arbitrary or forceful pickup cases, Nalinikanta said that Manipur State Drug Policy has been released. The state government has issued notification to regulate private de-addiction centres under the ministry guidelines. But not a single action has been taken up to control forceful or arbitrary pickup of victims though such cases were widely and frequently reported in local dailies and circulated in social media.
“It is not an overestimation to say that forceful or arbitrary pickup cases to admit a person at de-addiction centres is becoming rampant. There is eyewitness evidence that such activities are carried out by de-addiction centres itself or in nexus with de-addiction centres and local clubs. There is also news of the involvement of police personnel,” he claimed.
He further said that in order to control drug menace in the state, it is necessary to give due importance in all the strategies of demand reduction, supply reduction, harm reduction and providing de-addiction centres.
To achieve goal 3 target 3.5 of the sustainable development goal, the state government should also intervene in strengthening the condition of de-addiction and rehabilitation centres, he added.
He appealed to the state social welfare department to take up some prompt steps to successfully control human rights violations in de-addiction and rehabilitation centres and cases of forceful pickup.
“We know that every section of the society has started taking keen interest to end drug menace in the state. Amid this situation, let us also put some effort to control illegal activities and human rights violations going on in some of the private de-addiction centres,” he stated.
It may be mentioned that the notification issued by the state Social Welfare department to private de-addiction centres stated, "All the private de-addiction centres in the state will be regulated and registered under the Department of Social Welfare, government of Manipur. These centres shall conform to the prescribed minimum standards of services for the programme under the scheme for Prevention of Alcoholism and Substance (Drugs) Abuse, 2009 formulated by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment as per the Union cabinet decision taken on October 10, 2020, until further order."