By: M. R. Lalu
Nivin Pauly starrer “Action Hero Biju” was a Malayalam blockbuster. A born-chilling scene in the movie still gives me nightmarish images of a young drug-addict boy who attacks his mother for money to satiate his demand for drugs and the heartbreaking narration of the mother to the police. The movie outrightly raised concerns about the drug menace that the state of Kerala was reeling under and tried to caution the viewers. Igniting vigilance was the primary objective of this scene in the movie but the situation in Kerala, in real sense, is more frightening than the depiction in the movie. Heart-wrenching incidents of drug related violence with the involvement of young children would give us goose bumps of horror. Kerala has been facing a surge in drug abuse among students and youngsters recently. Not so long ago a middle aged couple killed their own son for his violence at home under the influence of drugs and alcohol in Thiruvananthapuram. How gruesome the way their son was murdered would tell us the quantum of pain the behavior of their child might have inflicted on them. They threw acid on his face and attacked him with an iron rod. The parents of the deceased were so tired of their son’s violence that he used to attack them every day after taking drugs.
Kerala has become a haven for drug peddlers and drug addicts. According to a survey conducted by the Kerala Police, 40 percent of the victims of substance abuse are from children below the age of 18. The frightening aspect of the data is that the majority of them are girls. They, once trapped in the net of substance users, become carriers in the next step. Alarmingly, as the trend was picking up speed in the beginning, most of the cases were reported from colleges. But now more cases are reported from schools with girl children becoming victims. The police admit the fact that women drug carriers are active in every area to lure girl children and in many cases boys are easily putting their girlfriends in the nasty drug circle. The quantum of horror does not stop with one or two incidents. According to counselors working for Child Protection Units, they have seized drug packets on the desks, benches and inside school bags on their visit to schools. Cases of sexual exploitation in schools have also been reported. Boyfriends, after introducing girls to drugs, exploit them sexually.
In a gruesome incident, a 9 year old boy had been subjected to torture by his alleged ‘drug addict’ parents. The child suffered bruises all over his body and was later admitted to a hospital in Idukki. The boy, who initially refused to reveal the brutality of his parents, had later disclosed the truth. As the narcotics cases swelled across the state, the Left government launched a one-month-long ‘No-to-Drugs’ awareness campaign with the Chief Minister inaugurating it. But the campaign could not cut back the surge of the menace. The fact is that Malayalis do not get shocked by the surging number of drug cases as the situation has become a terrible reality for the state and part of its normal behaviour. The Chief Minister of the state came up with a startling revelation in the Assembly on 31 August 2022 that 16,128 drug abuse related cases had been registered in Kerala during 2022 until August. At present, children whose lives are shattered by the drug addiction in the state go for several thousands. The real problem is far more fundamental than planted narratives. Occasional blame games by the political parties and their diplomatic silence reveal their hypocrisy and lack of commitment in curbing the threat.
According to the government sources, the manufacturing hub of synthetic drugs in Kerala remains elusive while ganja is cultivated in its forests. The grim picture of the state is not only shocking but it’s appallingly dangerous. The story of the son of a police officer, who became a drug addict and got killed in Thiruvananthapuram revealed the real menace. This should not be seen as an isolated case. There are many such cases in which the children of police officers are trapped and turned into drug addicts. Indicating the lapses in coastal security during the UPA regimes, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that the Indian Navy and Coast Guard seized drugs worth Rs.12000 crore off the Kerala coast recently in one instance. He was chest-thumping for the efficiency and vigilance of the forces under the present government along the state’s long coastal border. Though Shah’s swipe was at the UPA regimes for their lapses that had led to the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, his entire statement was a senseless pomposity as this achievement of the present government did not deserve any jubilation. While the government manages to grab a huge cache of drugs, there are elements that smuggle drugs across the state borders in small quantities.
Who should be held accountable for this appalling situation? Politicians would often pass the baton of responsibility to their opponents and blame each other. But everybody, from the parents to teachers to society to the people in the administration should be held accountable for this. A constellation of factors is at play behind the alarming surge of drug abuses and related crimes among the children. Teachers are often too busy with academics and parents, if they are service holders, get limited time to spend with their children. Lack of adequate parental counseling from the side of teachers and elders in the society could be another reason. It could also be due to an absence of dependable people at homes. A large number of parents, especially the male members from the families are working outside the state. In many cases, you will find parents working outside the country as well.
Maximum of such families, with their male members outside and the children left with their mothers and grandparents grow under feeble circumstances. This makes such families the most vulnerable as the elders in the families fail to trace and control their children’s waywardness. As per the official data of the state police, there is a huge jump in the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) cases registered in the state along with an increased quantity of synthetic drugs like MDMA, brown sugar, hashish and other materials being seized. As Onam festivities make life in the state more colorful with courtyards being decorated with flowers and festive gatherings, a question frequently heard is too distressing. Has the Kerala society decided to allow evil to flourish and live with it? Undoubtedly, the situation is really complex, ugly and awful. (The author is a freelance journalist)