It’s well and good to tell people not to get into bad things or not to fool around with dangerous experiments. Okay, but what is there to make their lives better?
Whatever its source and type – soft, hard or synthetic — the drug scourge is a multi-pronged issue which has been tolerated to satisfy the interests of different parties for decades. This government has vowed to crack down on traffickers and dealers of all hues, and dismantle obscure networks with tentacles that reach out from prison to air-conditioned offices of allegedly unscrupulous representatives of law in town. A huge task, indeed!
By now, the public must be lost in the maze of special commissions paid from state coffers set up by successive governments for every issue. Be patient, the Commission is coming up with findings and all the ramifications will be exposed and destroyed…
Meanwhile one may ask: what can be done about drug traffickers? We mean those who choose to get easy cash without much effort, without the discipline of a time-table, abiding by rules in the workplace, being competent and deriving satisfaction from efficiency and positive results. Those who live off the trade and are hell-bent on reaping maximum profits which a regular job does not bring. Those who do couldn’t not care less about being regular guys in society while at the same time being active partners in an illicit trade with the constant risk of being caught by law. Those who want the good life money gives without painstaking efforts and pocket illicit commission hardly detected by law. Unconsciously, the latter are probably role models for those who shun real work and its corresponding remuneration. But this is not the point here.
As the crackdown showed no sign of letting go, some dealers have been forced to give up the trade and find jobs. Many of them are still on the loose. Importers lack no imagination to find new ways of dodging customs and sneak drugs into the country. It will have to be an unrelenting, constant fight to destroy the network of importers, couriers, dealers and customers. Will there be any end to it? A strong political will with an unwavering commitment is most necessary to tackle the drug issue.
Deter young people from consuming drugs? It looks like a goal which can be more likely achieved than stopping the trade. We believe that anti-drug campaigns to raise awareness on harmful effects of drugs are already under way in schools to sensitize young people. Not all consumers are school-goers though. How do we reach out to them? Warnings on eye-catching billboards in towns and villages and television is one solution.
We all know what are the root causes of drug consumption: peer pressure, imitation, promise of forgetting problems, going high and feel well, flying away from reality and basking in virtual paradise. Mere preaching — don’t destroy your health, your career, family and social life; stand up and be responsible; be a man and take decisions; be strong and face reality and so on — is necessary but not effective enough. Sure, we sure all need to be strong. Life is not a bed of roses, sure, but it can be a highly interesting adventure.
The first thing which is needed to create a feel-good factor is to make people feel wanted in society. Further, show respect to one and all in society whatever be their physical appearances, social status, bank accounts, job or no job. Share the idea that no one is worthless, that everyone has got something valuable and worthy to contribute, and instil self-respect in one and all. Not a communist utopia of equality but a respectful attitude towards others – young and old – without being judgemental.
Equal treatment of citizens by the institutions too is very important. For example, there should be no sadistic and humiliating treatment or strip-searching/teasing citizens in police stations. Many cases go unreported, like a recent case in Grand Bay where a woman was asked to undress. How come such people get recruited in the police force? In everyday interaction, others must not be looked down upon: show respect to the people who clean the streets in front of your house or your office, and all those who go about their everyday job in the chain of work where you are involved whatever be their background. Shake hands, say hello, namasté or salam to people you come across on a daily basis, workers or the jobless. It will not degrade you or your position. Create a feeling of wantedness.
Is there a follow-up for early school leavers to know how they are faring? To prevent delinquency and idleness, school rectors and career guidance bodies are required to keep a record of vocational or other courses that school leavers are channelled towards so as to ensure that no one is left behind. Some kind of cooperation between local, town or village elected local authorities is needed to supervise the means of progress available to young adults.
Are teenagers bored? Get them to work in the various trades during holidays, to avoid idleness, hanging around and staying in bed with iphones and games. Make them grow up. They are immature compared to others of their age group in more developed societies. Do not let them wait for their parents to get back home and serve them everything on a platter. Let them do paid or benevolent work. It will infuse a sense of responsibility towards society and themselves, as well as the value of work and money.
One thing that is glaringly absent in an ever increasing population growth is new structures for people to meet and socialize other that in schools and the workplace. In most places young adults barely have a place to go to, relax, converse and exchange ideas. Not everyone wants to hang around with a can of beer in front of la boutik of the village or town. Not everyone goes to the Gymkhana Club or the Rotary Club on a weekly basis. Villages are even devoid of football grounds where young people can go and kick a ball around for an hour. Sports complexes are non-existent. There are no team sports nor individual sports. Nothing. It’s all very well and good to tell people not to get into bad things or not to fool around with dangerous experiments. Fine, but what is there to make their lives better? What alternatives are proposed to them?
The scourge of drugs remains a thorny issue. But incentives to change course have not all been explored.
* Published in print edition on 23 February 2018