With drug use increasing rapidly among the youth in Jammu and Kashmir in recent years, young journalist turned crusader Zorawar Singh Jamwal has vowed to give an impetus to his campaign against the abuse of narcotics throughout the Union Territory despite several challenges. He left his job as a reporter of a Delhibased newspaper and established ‘Team Jammu’ consisting mainly of youth to highlight the destruction being caused due to the consumption of drugs, and also to identify sources from where the “poison” is coming. Pakistan is also indulging in narco-terrorism in a big way by pushing drugs into Jammu and Kashmir. In an interview with S P Sharma, Jamwal talks about the magnitude of the menace and the challenges he faces.
Q. In what manner are you carrying out the campaign against drug abuse?
A. We started in 2014 by taking out a motorbike-rally against drug abuse. We maintain pressure on the police and other agencies to become active against the peddlers instead of remaining silent on this major social menace that is destroying the young generation. Some time back, 67.15 kg charas, 21 kg heroin, over 7,000 kg poppy husk and more than 15,000 medicinal intoxicants were seized by the police in Jammu. Another consignment of hashish worth about Rs.100 crore was seized by the J&K Police while being smuggled from
Q. Has ‘Team Jammu’ identified any victims of drugs?
A. It is an uphill task as parents of youngsters falling prey to drug abuse generally remain secretive because of social stigma. Children of affluent families and also some students who have remained toppers in their class had become drug addicts. Their identity cannot be disclosed but ‘Team Jammu’ has in many such cases assisted parents in rehabilitation of their young-ones.
Two rehabilitation centres have been set up in the Kashmir valley by the government but not a single one has been established in Jammu because of which the affected persons have to be taken to Punjab or elsewhere for treatment. There is some hope now since the Smart City Project envisages building a rehabilitation centre in Jammu.
Q. How serious is the problem in J&K?
A. As per the data compiled by our volunteers, more than 678 people have died due to drug overdose in Jammu district during the past five years. The information about such deaths came generally from the victim’s friends or relatives because parents were hesitant to share the information. Due to the pressure maintained by us, nearly 3,000 cases under the NDPS Act have been registered in the past three years and more than 900 peddlers arrested. The police in Jammu district arrested more than 500 peddlers during 2019.
Q. What steps have been taken by the government to tackle the problem?
A. While the situation is really grave, serious efforts to meet the challenge have yet to be made by government agencies. Reports of poppy and cannabis cultivation illegally in south Kashmir have been pouring in but a massive drive is yet to be launched to destroy the fields producing the contraband. Due to the pressure built by ‘Team Jammu’, the government has set up the antinarcotics bureau to handle the issue.
This has resulted in speedy prosecution of smugglers as the police who were earlier handling narcotics cases were overburdened with law and order duties.
Q. Any steps suggested by you to curb the menace?
A. The menace can be checked by identifying the drug lords and the big fish behind the increasing drug trade. J&K was facing the brunt of drug smuggling mainly from three sources, ISI of Pakistan, from within the Kashmir valley and also from Punjab. Pakistan was indulging in the conspiracy of narco-terrorism to destroy the youth of Jammu and Kashmir. India stopped cross-LOC trade between J&K and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) in 2019 as Pakistan was using the trade route to smuggle narcotics, weapons and fake currency through the two points in Uri (Kashmir) and Poonch (Jammu).
Q. Any challenges you are facing in your campaign?
A. The biggest challenge is of parents not sharing with us or the government agencies information about their wards who fall prey to drug abuse. Parents should not be afraid of the social stigma but should raise their voice against those engaged in the drug trade. Ill-effects of drug consumption should be
included in the curriculum at the primary level in schools.