October 22, 2021
Who’s a criminal?
To: either/view subscribers
Good morning. Doctors have successfully transplanted the kidney of a pig into a woman’s body who was declared brain-dead. For this transplant, the kidney came from a gene-edited pig to ensure that a particular sugar that could cause the body to have an immune system attack, was eliminated. Dr Robert Montgomery, who led the surgery, said the kidney had normal function.
📰 FEATURE STORY
NCB’s Pursuit of the User
When the British tried to criminalise the use of marijuana in 1838, 1871 and 1877, Indians stood strong in protest. We would much rather give up our freedom than give up access to the indigenous plant. But then the NCB happened. In an attempt to make good people out of us, the Narcotics Control Bureau, sanctioned by the NDPS Act, set out to work in 1985. And they sure have been busy since then. While controlling the influx of harmful substances is a necessity, is detaining drug users the best way to go about it?
In 1985, the Cold War had quite clearly divided the world into two opposing camps. Even though a comparatively young India was trying to stay out of it, it was in their best interest to show the camps that they were open to being friends. This is where the NDPS Act came in. Around the same time, America was headfirst into their Nixon-run war on drugs. Trying to seem more approachable to them, India felt it was about time we did something about the drugs on our porch. Because in any case, we have to protect our youths.
The Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, was passed within 4 days with a presidential assent. It essentially became our primary anti-drug law, giving birth to the NCB. In 1989, the NDPS went through several amendments that made the law far harsher. All of a sudden, not only drug trafficking but drug abuse could get you around 10 years of imprisonment or more. For general consumption, one can be imprisoned for a year or charged a fine of up to INR 10,000 or both. While the act aims to curb the movement of drugs for monetary gain, it’s this hardwiring of attitudes that the NCB currently runs on.
Working for the greater good
Let’s get this straight, the NCB is not the police. It is a coordinating agency that falls under the purview of the Central government. In fact, it is the “apex coordinating agency” for all things drugs. This means that they make sure the state governments and law enforcement are on the same page when it comes to cases. They organise, investigate and communicate all necessary information needed to curb drug abuse in an area. The Bureau is also allowed to “function as an enforcement agency” in certain “zones and sub-zones.” Given the current situation in Bollywood, yes, Mumbai is one of its many zones.
When asked about the agency’s several low-profile and low-quantity seizures, an NCB official was quick to justify their actions. Referring to an influx of “tip-offs”, he said, “We study these complaints and decide on cases that can be followed up. The size or quantity of the drug is immaterial”. So what exactly do they look at? Earlier this year, the NCB managed to bust open an entire drug racket that had been active in Mumbai’s Mahim beach area for years. How did they do it? They followed a local lead that promised a small seizure. Following a user can, a lot of times, lead to larger and more organised drug trafficking rackets.
Reportedly, having the NCB look into smaller cases allows the state and local police to focus on the higher profiled cases. Sandwiched between the Golden Crescent (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) and Golden Triangle (Thailand, Laos and Myanmar), major areas for illegal opium production, India’s borders have been riddled with drugs for years. So why now? The inclusion of the dark web, “app-based aggregators” and unwittingly, the postal service has made it so much more difficult to find a source. In the face of changing times and a crime syndicate that keeps updating itself, law enforcement is bound to change its approach too.
The need for new reforms
A study by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy said that, in 2018, 81,778 people were charged under the NDPS Act in India. 59% of them were arrested for personal use. In Mumbai alone, out of a total of 10,669 cases, 99.9% were for personal use and 87% of them were marijuana-related. Not even the hard drugs. The point is that the law is broken. The NDPS has been under fire for a while now and the added attention from Rhea Chakraborty’s and Aryan Khan’s cases have only made matters worse.
As of 2001, the NDPS Act was amended to make the difference between a commercial peddler and a user more prominent. This was done so that the law would stop treating users as hardened criminals, as they seldom are. Through Section 64 of the act, those “dependent on drugs” are even given immunity from prosecution. And Section 71 provides for “setting up of treatment facilities for [the] addicts.” This was done so that law enforcement could focus on “bigger fish” but that seems to be completely forgotten by the NCB and certain law officers now.
The NCB even gets to determine the gravity of the crime, i.e. determine the substance and the quantity of it under the accused’s possession. Thus, having a direct effect on an individual’s sentence. Even the police in Punjab arrest someone after the consumption of drugs. The NCB work on their own terms. Most of the time, authorities hound consumers simply because they’re the easiest to come by. Our system currently runs on ‘the higher the number of convicted cases, the more efficient the agency is’. This dangerous precedent only allows for further misuse of the NDPS Act.
If we are to learn anything from history, arresting addicts will not keep them from more drug use. Addiction, just like any other behavioural disorder, needs treatment. The 2001 amendments seem to understand this but sadly, public perception might not. Given mainstream media’s appetite for sensationalism, it isn’t hard to see the effects of further incrimination from social stigma. The fact that the NDPS does not provide any measures to protect a first-time offender’s identity should be reason enough to call for immediate changes to the policy.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
With his Fabindia boycott call, Tejasvi Surya is hurting the soul of Hinduism
For the Left:
Misinterpretation of Mohan Bhagwat’s Vijay Dashmi address undermines Sangh’s core concern of protecting India from the efforts to disintegrate her
🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
India’s first voter (Himachal Pradesh) – Shyam Saran Negi was independent India’s first voter. Now, at 104 years old, he’s looking forward to casting his vote on October 30. Despite his age and being ill, he refused to take a postal ballot. He’ll cast his vote at the Government Primary School, Kalpa, in Kinnaur district. It’s the same place he cast his first vote on October 25, 1951. A former brand ambassador of the Election Commission of India, he has never missed an election.
E-voting trial success (Telangana) – In a first, the Telangana State Election Commission (TSEC) said the dry run for mobile e-voting in Khammam municipal corporation was a success. While there were some technical glitches, 3830 voters registered and 2128 cast votes. The app got a 90% positive rating, and 80% felt it was user friendly. Similar to EVMs, the voter can see their choice for ten seconds and can’t take a screenshot. The hope is that this will help senior citizens and persons with disabilities to participate in the electoral process.
Teaching charity (Jharkhand) – 43-year-old Harprit Kaur of Jamshedpur uses a part of her salary to distribute clothes and blankets to poor villagers close to the school she teaches in. Her students help identify areas that need help, and she takes them along to meet the gram pradhan. She teaches Hindi in Upgraded High School Gobarghusi, Patamda. She hopes that her children will continue this as they accompany her, as she visits the villages on Sunday for distribution.
Registering tobacco sellers (Rajasthan) – The Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) released recently showed 97% of cigarette smokers in the 13-15 age group bought cigarettes from stores, paan shops, and street vendors. Health experts want the state government to register all shops and vendors that sell tobacco products. The survey showed that shops and vendors don’t refuse when children ask for tobacco products. Experts also want the effective implementation of the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003 and Juvenile Justice Act.
Students’ performance (Arunachal Pradesh) – In the villages of Changlang district, more than 7000 students attended remedial classes before schools began to reopen as restrictions were eased. The classes were conducted by community volunteers under an initiative called “The School Preparation Month.” The result was a marked improvement in the assessments of the children. For example, in maths from class 1 to 3, 89.83% of the kids can now count up to 100 as before it was 47.07%. The volunteers were given daily lesson plans and teaching materials.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
$66,084 – The highest value hit by Bitcoin in its debut in the first U.S. exchange-traded fund. The largest cryptocurrency surpassed its previous peak in April. So far, in 2021, it has surged more than 120%.