IMPHAL: The 3.5 Collective has strongly condemned the torture of drug users, which has gone viral in social media and stated that it is a direct result of the Government of Manipur’s apathy and wrong policy toward the drug users.
Addressing media persons at the Kwakeithel office of Human Rights Alert (HRA) on Sunday, the 3.5 Collective convenor Babloo Loitongbam said that the torture on drug users which has gone viral in social media is just the tip of an ice berg and it clearly shows the overall attitude of the society and the government towards the drug user’s community which is very unfortunate and is condemned in the strongest terms.
The incident which has gone viral in social media is the escape of a drug user from Covid Care Centre (CCC) located at RIMS on November 19, 2020. In the video that went viral, it was seen that the drug user was caught by medical staff of RIMS, CCC somewhere in Imphal and manhandled in public. The patient was kicked and slapped before he was carried away in an ambulance with his hands tied in the back.
Babloo said that this incident is the fallback of the government’s failure in its policies and the lackadaisical attitude in addressing the special needs of the drug user’s community. All in all it can be rightly termed as a systematic failure of the state government in handling the covid-19 pandemic in the state.
He further appealed to the government to address the special needs of the specific population including the drug user’s community while responding to the Covid-19 pandemic so that such incidents can be reduced to a considerable level in future.
The 3.5 Collective Co-convenor, Jogesh Maibam who was also present during the press briefing said that despite several representations submitted to the authority concerned regarding proper medical treatment to current drug users who are found to be Covid-19 positive and kept in CCC, the indifferent attitude of the government in handling the situation has led to serious chaos in the society to the extent of Covid-19 patients running away from the treatment centre.
The more grim part of the whole scenario is that such patients (current drug users) who are victims of Coronavirus are left with no choice but to escape from the treatment centre in search of their daily doses as their priority is not treatment from Coronavirus but procurement of drugs at any cost since they begin to suffer from withdrawal symptom in the absence of drugs, have become victims of government’s negligence and indifferent attitude, he added.
It is pertinent to mention here that any current drug user who is provided treatment at drug
treatment centres are given substitute drug treatment medicines to control the withdrawal
symptoms which creep up the moment a drug user is denied drugs. This symptom goes on for
over a couple of days and there is an urgent need for the patient to be provided treatment as per
the need, Jogesh informed.
However, he said, this is not the case in any of the centres and hospitals in the state where Covid-19 patients are kept and treated at present. Nevertheless, following several representations written to the competent authority to open separate quarantine centres exclusively for drug dependents ever since the Covid-19 pandemic started and the government imposed lockdown in the state, the Principal Secretary (Social Welfare ) issued an advisory on April 6, 2020 instructing the Integrated Rehabilitation Centre for Addicts (TRCAs) and private run drug de-addiction and rehabilitation centres to accommodate the dependent users who do not have any other place to stay. The advisory also advised the Social Welfare department to facilitate procurement of essential commodities from the department concerned on payment basis.
Again on May 30, 2020, the Project Director of Manipur State AIDS Control Society (MSACS)
issued a circular instructing all the TI NGOs and OST centres to follow the guidelines issued
by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (DDAP) Division, Government of India to
manage drugs and substance withdrawal in the context of the lockdown as a response to Covid-
Later on June 2, 2020, the Director of Health Services, Government of Manipur issued a memorandum informing that one block (Block B) of IIT Quarantine Centre, Mantripukhri has been designated as Institutional Quarantine Centre (IQC) only for the passengers who use drugs and arriving in Manipur. The IQC will be managed by MSACS.
Despite these initiatives taken up, presumably in concern for the drug user’s community, a
number of unwanted incidents have been happening in the state wherein the drug user’s
community has been targeted and are being victimized. There have been numerous incidents
where drug users have reportedly run away from CCC but later caught and actions taken up by the public as well as the staff concerned of the centres. Nobody, even the authorities concerned did not care to investigate and acknowledge the fact that the drug users had run away from the centres not because they were not provided better foods and lodgings but due to the withdrawal symptoms. This has clearly indicated how careless and irresponsible the authority is in dealing with the drug users community, it added.
The meet was attended by The 3.5 Collective Co-convenor Geetchandra Mangang and member RK Nalinikanta.