Opium dreams lull most youth in UP district

Opium and its derivatives hold almost complete sway over the lives of most of the youth of Uttar Pradesh's Ghazipur district, where the Union government's opium factory is also located.

By Parshuram Ray
Published: Saturday 15 May 1993

-- VISIT the villages of Ghazipur district in Uttar Pradesh and the sight of flourishing kutir udyog (cottage industry) could lead you to 'anti-Gandhian' violence. About 2,000 people in the poppy-growing district are reportedly engaged in the lucrative but illegal manufacture on a cottage-industry basis of drugs derived from opium. Thousands more are involved in their sale.

Constant contact with opium has taken its toll and addiction is widespread in the district. The Union government operates a factory in Ghazipur to manufacture opium-based medicinal drugs, for which poppy plantations have been approved in the district. The poppy grown, however, is far in excess of what the government has permitted and the surplus is sold to smugglers or transformed in small, illegal refineries that have come up locally into brown sugar, smack and heroin. Most of these factories are operated by former factory employees, trained by the government in opium processing.

The worst hit of Ghazipur's tehsils is Zamania, where three-quarters of the district's total production of illegal heroin, brown sugar and smack is manufactured.
Easy availability Opium is readily available in the villages of Ghazipur and is often sold with pan tobacco. An unofficial survey estimates about 4 per cent of the district's population of about 20 lakh is addicted to but Shamim Ahmed Abbasi, secretary of Lok Vikas Kendra (Community Development Centre), and V J P Singh, a physician say addiction among youth exceeds 50 per cent.

Arun Kumar, the superintendent of police in Ghazipur, concedes the drug menace is both widespread and ineradicable. "It can at best be minimised," he says, "because the money involved is so enormous, it can influence the controlling and regulating machinery at every stage."

There is a silver lining, however. A group of social and religious workers, doctors, psychotherapists and parents of drug addicts have come together under the aegis of the Ghazipur Eye and Health Society and established detoxication camps throughout the district. The success rates of these camps has been high in detoxification, but recidivism is also high because of the lack of adequate rehabilitative facilities.

Says S C Ray, who founded the society, "To generate awareness against drugs in every family is the first and foremost task in the fight against drug abuse. Police, doctors or social activists cannot check this menace without the active involvement of guardians, parents, and family members of the addicts." And Ray says poster exhibitions, slide shows and short films and seminars are part of the society's plans to generate this awareness.

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