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Express News Service
CHANDIGARH: In an effort to tackle the drug menace in the state, the Punjab government is mulling bringing in the Comprehensive Action Against Drug Abuse Act (CADA). Once passed, the Act will provide a legal framework for enforcement, treatment and prevention programs for drug abuse. It will also cover treatment and prevention aspects for alcohol and tobacco abuse disorders.

The principal innovation in the proposed Act is to give a statutory basis to prevention and treatment programs such as the DAPO (Drug Abuse Prevention Officers) and buddy program. These initatives are aimed at having a legal foundation and supervision for community mobilisation efforts and prevention amongst students.

Drug treatment programs were earlier run through general nature rules made under the NDPS Act but this act provides a specific structure and a monitoring system. The Outpatient Opioid Assisted Treatment (OOAT), Drug Abuse Prevention Officers (DAPO) and buddy programs have already been touted as major achievements by the state government in a publicity campaign.

Sources clarified that there is no conflict with the main NDPS Act which prescribes punishments for various offences and that CADA only supplements the provisions of the NDPS to increase its effectiveness and improve the gains to the system. It makes officials and departments more accountable for implementation of the comprehensive action against drug abuse to the law and to the cabinet through a ministerial committee.

As per the proposed Act, a copy of which is available with the New Indian Express, it aims to provide a legal foundation for enforcement, treatment and prevention programs against abuse of narcotics, psychotropic substances, alcohol, tobacco and other intoxicants in Punjab. This act aims to effectively and efficiently control drug abuse and substance abuse disorders and to secure the health and safety of citizens by adopting appropriate measures matching best international practises. 

Since it cannot be left to individual departments, a coordinated effort by 17 teams is needed. These teams will be brought under one ambit for implementing the strategy og CADA in an effective and time bound manner. The home department will be the nodal department to implement this act.

The proposed act further states that it will be mandatory for each of the 17 departments to make an overall action plan for its area of responsibility and get it approved. There will be annual assessment of the work done by each department and unit. The action plan shall take into account the types of drugs that are particularly abused in specific areas, measures to curtail them, ensure de-addiction treatment, recovery of drug users and prevention aspects. The responsibilities of each official will be fixed in theaction plan.

It will be the individual and collective responsibility of the officials for the implementation of the CADA strategy. Each department will give training to its officials to upgrade their knowledge and each official shall be individually responsible for the effective and efficient discharge of duties. If the officials are ineffective in controlling the drugs it will reflect in their Annual Appraisal Report (ACR), also legal action will be taken against officials if they fail to control drugs.  

A policy of rotation shall be implemented for officers to prevent development of vested interests. Besides the government departments NGOs will also be involved.

The state government will constitute a fund for the control of drug abuse and to implement the strategy of CADA. There will be total transparency as the concerned head of department will upload expenditure, details of receipts every day on their portal

Under this act besides enforcement, prevention and treatment will also be done in a coordinated manner to streamline the system and fix accountability which will be placed before legislature. This act will supplement the NDPS Act which does not have provisions for prevention.

The act clearly states that there will be coordination between the Special Task Force (STF), district police and other units of the police department for enforcement of laws related to drug trafficking. Also anti-drug units will be established in each district which will be supervised by STF and intelligence sharing will be done. If one dies due to suspected drug overdose or injury, it will be mandatory to register a case. The police station shall be made responsible for implementation of anti-drug laws. The act also provides for the prevention of any illegal telephonic, electronic, or other means of communication that may directly or indirectly promote or sustain trafficking and organised crime by inmates in jails.

Under the act, Nasha Roko Nigran Committees (NRNC) will be formed for every village or mohalla or ward or locality to oversee the implementation of Drug AbusePrevention Officers (DAPO) program. 

Hotspots shall be identified for reclamation and rejuvenation to be converted into citizen-friendly, crime-free areas by using a locally suitable and adaptable mix of development, crime prevention and community mobilisation interventions.

The state government shall establish an anti-drug abuse division in the health department for supervision, coordination, and effective enforcement of the NDPS Act and other laws. The government may establish treatment clinics to provide wider coverage and easier access. The government shall also establish tobacco abuse treatment clinics, centres and rehabilitation centres for the de-addiction treatment and alcohol abuse treatment clinics will be established. OOAT clinics have already been established.

“This draft legislation has been sent to the state government by the Special Task Force (STF) and the government is actively considering it,” a senior official said requesting anonymity.