Noklak District Admin, Church, CSOs fight to save generation from drugs

Noklak: Today’s problem is partly because of what was not done 15-20 years back, says KBCA ES

BY | Sunday, 27 August, 2023

Every generation has its own challenges. Our forefathers lived in constant fear due to village feuds and suffered from diseases. Insurgency, HIV/AIDS and drugs tested later generations while more recently, the pandemic presented a movie-like situation where nobody seemed to know what was happening and what ought to be done. Unfortunately, other than village feuds, these issues continue to concern the society to this day. But one problem in particular is overwhelming Nagaland and Noklak district as we speak.

A generation is said to have paralysed if not wiped out due to the rampant drug use in late 80s and early 90s in Noklak and concerned public fear that drugs will steal another generation if not dealt with immediately. The young district in the Indo Myanmar border has proved its potentiality for growth and excellency in numerous fields but the drug menace is overshadowing its potentials.

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Officially, the past five years statistic shows that death due to overdose is 15, active Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) population is 461 and complete treatment is 21.

The Khiamniungan Students Union, being vocal on the pressing subject, stated in its press release:

“Drug  problems are complex public health problems that need to be understood and responded with comprehensive policy initiatives that address the multiplicity of causes of drug problems, particularly the social, economic, and political conditions that underline them. The increasing problems of illicit drugs both reflect and contribute to larger socio-economic and cultural loopholes of the concern community. The origin of some of these tensions are clear; rapid changes in political and economic structures, reduced family and community cohesiveness, increased unemployment, increase in the mobility of goods and services across borders and lastly, but not the least, ’the educational trap’.

To precisely take into account one of the obvious reasons for the increase in number of persons using illicit drugs in the district would be to blame or applaud the awe of globalization. Unlike many other countries or states or localities that were blessed with globalization, Noklak District in its infancy has already become a victim of it. Having negligibly located in the Indo-Myanmar Border, it is a dilemma to consider it a blessing or a curse; nonetheless, there are booms and busts of it. The other reason can be, cutting the chest straight, the problem of educational trap, that is to say, vast majority of those affected by drugs abuse were once students of certain GPS or GMS or any private institution in that case. However will be a shame to only blame the institutional failures in the district. It is therefore imperative to state that an effective government policies be adopted not at the surface of the problem but programs that penetrates into the actual problems facing the entire community.

The alarming rise of drug users among the youths pose the greatest challenge and is a matter of great concern to the people of Noklak. The deadly drug of the 80’s that had claimed the lives of hundreds of youths had once again appeared before the new generation of youths. It had indeed enticed many youngsters of the range and many had died of it. the venomous drug is been in circulation in almost all the village of the range. If the inflow of drug is not checked and stopped once and for all, Noklak will surely face one more gap of generation of the population.”

Chuba, an entrepreneur from the district opined that the people of Noklak are naturally born with skills but do not know how to polish to economically benefit them and regretted that 80% of the market is dominated by the non locals. “The problem is directly or indirectly linked with economy,” he said on the drug menace.

Being a bordering area with Burma, most trading system in the district is not through legal channel, Chuba says adding, “everything is black business because there is no recognised dealer and the people are misusing and promoting in terms of drugs.” He maintains that if only the people get the opportunity to exchange other goods, the drug issue will be subsided. One big issue in Nagaland is that many Naga youths are brainwashed by Government subsidies that they do not want to struggle, he says.

Chuba also points out that the rise in drug abuse in the youth is due to lack of proper family orientation. He is of the view that the youngsters spend most of their time with friends in unnecessary and purposeless street gatherings where they are influenced to try out intoxicating substances. Personal counselling is the need of the hour, Chuba strongly asserts.

Thsongtsan, a 50-year-old man from Choklangan Village, shares his experience of being a drug addict for fourteen years. He narrates that he was introduced to the abusive substance by a dealer and that he had no knowledge about the consequences.  “They told me that it is good and will take away my problems so I started having drugs,” Thsongtsan said.

He too iterated that the village being a boundary to Burma became a gateway to “business people”. The 50-year-old man says that his life became miserable and he could not lead a normal life anymore as he became dependent on drugs for sustenance. He adds that it affected his work, family and personal life severely. After years of living in hell and regret, Thsongtsan testifies that his life has somehow come to the right track since he started taking OST three years ago. He advices the youngsters to stay away from the abusive substance.

Noklak District Administration and the Church are making efforts in its own capacity to control the grim situation. Noklak Deputy Commissioner Arikumba informs that the District Administration conducts monthly meeting on Narco Coordination Centre (NCORD) which involves police security agencies and medical department, while also carrying out awareness programs on drugs organised by the NCORD team focusing mainly on students.

The DC also mentions that the District Administration plans on continuing to impart training for skill development and hopes the youths will be responsive. The administration has also called to install CCTV in every pharmacy, he adds. The problem lies where many of the drug addicts are self made doctors, Arikumba states while also asserting, “The community should keep an open mind and the addicts should not be stigmatized”.

The Khiamniungan Baptist Churches Association has been one of the most effective tools to fight against this biggest issue. KBCA started the advocacy during the 90’s in collaboration with ECS to work for drug abuse and HIV/AIDS, and presently engaged with the issue through Targeted Intervention (TI).

Hempao Lam, Executive Secretary, KBCA, informs that they intend focusing more on the Sunday School students with the hope that if children gain proper knowledge on drugs, they will stay away from the dangerous habit. The ES believes if young people are given the right Christian perspective of life, they cannot simply run into this issue. The issue is a spiritual warfare and it is a warfare of the mind, he says.

“The Church can do big but cannot do all,” he states.  KBCA can set agendas and philosophy of the ministry for the church but the local churches are the doers, he says adding that the problem may be easier to tackle if the local churches invest more time and money to children and youths.

The ES also points out that today’s problem is partly because of what has not been done 15-20 years back.  With the reality that occurs often where parents send their children without even knowing the place, Hempao strongly calls on right parenting. Very few are capable of training children and they become parents before they are fit to be one, he says. Observing that the abused do not come to church, Hempao admits that the church is trying but yet to find where and how to reach non-going church people.

The KBCA ES reminds young people that life is precious and that it is their responsibility to bury their parents with honour and not die before them.

The collective strength and efforts of the Church, District Administration, student body and responsible individuals can positively address the issue by educating the citizens about the issue.

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