In the face of the menace of drug smuggling from Manali in Himachal Pradesh (HP) routed through Kashmir, the Union Territory (UT) administration of Ladakh is trying hard to keep the cold desert region free from the scourge of drugs.
Umang Narula, advisor to the Lt. Governor of the UT, held the first meeting of Narco Coordination Center (NCORD) in Leh attended by senior officers of police and Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB). At the meeting intelligence, police, NCB and other state agencies were told to coordinate each other in monitoring the smuggling routes.
The Manali-Leh and Kashmir-Leh highways are being used by miscreants to smuggle narcotics to the cold desert region of Ladakh particularly during the tourist season when a large number of domestic and foreign tourists arrive in Ladakh.
Speaking on the NCORD meeting, Additional Director General of Police, Ladakh SS Khandaker said the department is in consultation with National Forensic Science University, Gujarat, for recruiting manpower and procuring specialised equipment for combating drug trafficking and the use of illegal substances.
A dedicated canine squad trained in narco and sniffer activities is in place, informed the ADGP for the purpose.
The NCORD is a mechanism for effective coordination among all the drug enforcement agencies and other stakeholders and also to provide a common platform for discussion on drug-trafficking-related issues.
Deputy Director General (NR) NCB, Gyaneshwar Singh gave a comprehensive presentation on ‘NCORD Mechanism’ and the current drug scenario. He said the number of drug users in India has increased by 7 times during the period 2004–2019.
Taking stock of the existing drug abuse cases and trafficking scenario in Ladakh, the advisor stated that mass awareness campaigns in schools and colleges are of utmost importance as the drug menace mostly afflicts children and adolescents. He also deliberated on the requirement of counseling centers, rehabilitation and drug de-addiction centers and reiterated that drug users should be treated as victims who need rehabilitation and not as criminals.
To control drug abuse by tourists, the advisor exhorted to display signage prohibiting consumption and trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substance in public places.
Principal Secretary, Health and Medical Education Dept, Dr Pawan Kotwal, stressed the need for hiring experts like psychologists and psychiatrists to deal with substance abuse disorder on a grassroots level.