The Vidhi Centre report - ‘From Addict to Convict: The Working of the NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act (1985) in Punjab’ shows how the NDPS Act has failed to meet its twin objectives of deterrence and rehabilitation in Punjab where drug offences continue unabated.
Punjab has the highest crime rate for drug offences in the country. The report states a compelling figure that in Punjab, in the year 2013-2015 the total conviction rate under the NDPS Act was 82.30 per cent. The report also puts in perspective the effectiveness of deterrent punishment, criminalization of drug consumption, necessity of adoption of a public health approach towards addiction, coordination between relevant Ministries, and the need for legislative and policy change.
The intent of the study was to evaluate the impact of the NDPS act and its working in the state of Punjab. The state has witnessed rampant drug use over the last few years and the situation only have worsened.
On average, 85.4 per cent of cases under the NDPS Act across the 18 sampled districts between 2013–15 involve intermediate quantities of drugs. In comparison, only 14.57 per cent of all cases coming to court involve commercial quantity of drugs.
It also states that the average period of sentencing is higher in cases involving pharmaceutical drugs as compared to narcotic drugs. In 47.9% of the narcotic drug cases the sentence was between 1 to 3 months.
The report strongly recommends that drug consumption be decriminalised, and a public health approach be adopted. The law should encourage diverting addicts through the non-punitive sections of the NDPS Act, regardless of whether they have been found with small or intermediate quantity of drugs. The police and the judiciary should be trained to better implement these non-punitive provisions.
The drug situation in Punjab is alarming indeed. Punjab has recently reported a whopping 126 per cent rise in the number of drug addicts reporting at Out Patient Departments of various health care clinics. Around 5,107 drug addicts are being treated at government rehabilitation centres and 17,667 in private hospitals. These developments came under Punjab government’s unique scheme labelled DAPO or Drug Abuse Prevention Officer.
What is even more worrying is the large number of relapse rate of drug addicts. But the problem is there no proper data available on this issue. People do get de-addicted at several healthcare centres but it is not known how many of them actually get completely free of their addiction. Many of them also fall in the trap again.