A lot more needs to be said about the way the government and private agencies have been in their own ways taking ahead, so to say, the anti-drugs abuse programmes which they have been campaigning for ages now. The question still remains if these various agencies are not taking things too literally and promoting themselves without actually having never addressed the difficult situation a drugs user finds himself or herself in; wherein they are constantly under pressure to fulfil the conditions enumerated by mental health professionals for a person, a drugs user, on what constitutes a socially consistent mind frame, whatever that might mean. Odds are perpetually stacked against the drugs user or alcohol user to conform to lop-sided norms for living his or her life according to what a psychiatrist or the family members push him to agree to without deviation.
The drugs users or alcohol users are forced by compelling circumstances created by the mental health professionals and family members to empty himself of his personal feelings to professionally unorganised and naive bunch of people motivated by private enterprise, who are supposed to bring the ‘patient’ out of ‘addiction’, but who on the contrary leave the drugs users bereft of self-composure or any choice, so much that they are robbed of their intrinsic dignity. And the usual blame is that the drug user is causing harm to the reputation of the family. So it’s not out of love; that is lost anyway; it’s just that the family in ‘seeking professional help’ is placing the reputation of the family beyond any questions, while at the same time severely hurting the dignity and privacy of the drugs user, as if he or she is not human, or is lower than that. Even the Supreme Court in a separate case recently has mentioned that saving the dignity of a person charged with defaming someone is to be taken as more vital when considering a complaint of loss of reputation of the complainant.
The impression the health experts try to leave upon drugs users during ‘treatment’ is that first of all the ‘patient’ should be prejudiced against all drug users, and that he has no rights except the right to ask his family, relatives or his doctor for medicines that are going to keep him, in their words ‘sane’, and that too for the rest of his life; which implies that the ‘patient’ has been already labelled as kind of imbecile or infirm just to suit the family and the mental health professionals. It’s a straightjacketed mind, more than the physical restrictions imposed on movement, which the drugs user by the ‘crime’ of his having a taste for drugs or alcohol must carry on his shoulders usually throughout his life.
Any non-compliance is monitored and strictly punishable, that’s the truth about any mental health professionals or family who have decided to no more be brothers, sisters or parents to the drugs user but to be nosey surveillance agents in collusion with the mental health professionals, on what, where, why, and at what time the drugs user does anything. They are judgemental about the moods of the ‘patient’ as if a full moon is going to bring the worst out of the werewolf of a son, daughter, brother or sister who is a drug user.
So this brings us to the pertinent question of the day. Are there government policy, or private enterprise dedication to help a drugs user and address his or her problems, even when under pressure he or she is sometimes compelled to comply under the emotional blackmail of family, or direct threats that he or she would be cut off from family relations or sent ‘again’ (threateningly) to a rehabilitation centre. Drugs users and alcohol users are usually kept in rehabilitation centres run under licence from the government or by other private agencies and all of these are nothing less than ‘private jails’. The conditions are no different than a jail. Thirty to forty patients without their personal consent are forcibly put in each of 3-4 overcrowded dormitories which are locked 24×7, and all they can do is stay lying down in heavily bed bugs-infested beds, as there’s no space to even walk in the dormitories, all through the day, for years on end, where more than anything else, the light of their souls is snuffed out with each passing moment in captivity; where they have to say ‘yes’ to the wardens, whereas deep inside them they want to cry out ‘no’ in the ennui of desperation caused by long years under lock and key. It’s quite surprising what evokes the health professionals to give this hard and cruel treatment to the ‘patients’ when they themselves or their rehabilitation centres are most ill-equipped, without any resources spent on the patients, no scope for mental leisure like books, newspapers, magazines or other material, or properly maintained toilets or supply of water or nutritious food, though these centres charge enough money to make large profits from the collections from guardians.
Any serious dissent is met with sometimes up to 50 full blooded whacks on the back of the thighs and buttocks, with a seasoned stocky cane or aluminium rod; lesser if you have a lucky day. The only thing the caretakers are punctual to an extent in is distributing medicines prescribed by the house psychiatrist and the less than wholesome diet two times a day. Rest of the time the patients have to stay inside the locked dormitories without a fan in the summer heat, eaten by bed bugs and nothing to comfort you. These scenes are from one such centre on Changangei Road. The owner, by the way, consumes alcohol every day with his friends on the first floor of the centre while the dormitories are on the ground floor.
There are other centres too all over the state – all ‘private jails’, with treatment worse than state managed jails. Not that I’m calling the doubling up of state jails as rehabilitation centres good, because it’s totally unlawful to put a drug user in jail for consumption, and that too for long years without proper charges. Basically these centres are outright money making ventures where the doctor drops in once in two months to prescribe medicines for a constant full capacity of around a 100-150 inmates in the twin facilities. There’s one centre for women too right in the busy Airport Road which is run by the same owner. The centre at Changangei had initially ventured into providing help to a few mentally and physically retarded children about 40 years back but now have diversified their activities over the years to lock up ‘mentally ill’ patients and drugs users, having taken to making money, as a purely business venture, and having departed from any welfare goals they might have had earlier when they started off, if any.
So what’s there more than canings, beatings and 24×7 locking up of patients, away from these centres? Firstly, there are community groups like the Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, which hold meetings once or twice a week all over the world; in Imphal too; and here the drugs and alcohol users find companionship, hope and camaraderie to leave their intoxication of choice in a dignified and sensible manner. The clamp down on drugs and alcohol has become a throttling by the neck of social sentiment in the state, and users, former or present, are finding it difficult to get even a gulp of air in these severely disruptive circumstances, whereas countries in the west including the USA have opened up and allow sale and culture or marijuana as an industry legally in many of the states. And it is solving the problems of smokers who are happy with it. Who is the government or a pack of crude surveyors from stopping the sale and smoking of marijuana, especially when it is helping people 100% to live their lives happily and without being dictated by these agencies on how to live or enjoy, as if these agencies knew any better. If marijuana is helping people to live their lives contentedly in America or elsewhere, what is the argument that it won’t do so in Manipur, or Imphal, which has a lot of high quality home grown marijuana?
The ministers and MLAs also, quite a few of them have come out in support of exporting liquor and marijuana. Any business is done because it’s good economically or otherwise. So it’s good they are supporting this idea in principle and maybe practically soon. And we can safely say marijuana and alcohol is safe, as much for places and people who would get it if it’s exported, as much for the people of Manipur. It’s only when you put curbs that the reaction is there socially since people like to go against hard laws, the first thing. Medical marijuana is sold online also. There’s nothing wrong with smoking marijuana or drinking alcohol on principle and we shouldn’t impinge on anyone’s personal freedom to smoke or drink. The social conflict arises only when the people are put under a clamp down.
Though personally I stand up for gender rights, it’s hard not to mention the way drugs and alcohol using husbands or family members are treated as despicable. The women get too much leeway from society and the law, in matters of property, care, maintenance, etc. If there’s a discord for the reason of alcohol or drugs use why can’t the law be equal and give as much importance to the rights of the man, as the woman. Property or assets should be divided 50% for both the aggrieved parties instead of locking up the men in these ‘private jails’ for years and years. There are some who even die in these so-called rehabs and the wife, parents or brothers and sisters are relieved by it since they will get the family property. Putting a drug user in rehab in this case turns out to be quite a good investment for many, and it’s something which many people are doing consciously.
They say “It is fatal to enter a war without the will to win it”. Having said that, one can only imagine, the vigour, the