Sopore: If the official figures alone are to be believed, drug abuse is on the rise in north Kashmir areas.
As per the records accessed by Kashmir Reader, the number of drug abuse-related cases has tripled since 2014.
In 2014, at least 40 cases were registered by police in north Kashmir under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, but the number swelled to 112 in 2015, the records show.
However, not all the cases have ended in punishment to the offenders.
In Kupwara, 17 cases were registered in 2015, but only five arrestees were booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows for imprisonment of a person without trial.
In Baramulla, 20 cases were registered in 2014 but no one was punished, while only five of the accused persons in 31 cases registered were booked under PSA in 2015.
In Bandipora, no one involved in the eight and 32 cases registered in 2014 and 2015, respectively, was sentenced.
In Handwara town, three cases each were registered in 2014 and 2015, but no one was punished in the two years.
In Sopore town, five cases were registered in 2014 but no one got penalised, while in 2015 only one of the accused in 29 cases was booked under PSA.
People blame the lack of follow up action for the apparent rise in drug abuse.
“Every second day we get to hear that some drug peddler has been apprehended. But the question is what happens after they are arrested? Are they being punished? ” Abdul Ahad, a Sopore local, told Kashmir Reader.
Ghulam Qadir Dar, a shopkeeper, added: “They (police) just make loud announcements about arresting notorious drug peddlers, but they (peddlers) are later released without any action.”
Giving an account of how the arrested peddlers or addicts may be avoiding sentence, a druggie (name withheld) said he managed to get bail from the court before he might have been booked under PSA.
“I have been arrested thrice in drug abuse crime, but I managed to evade the PSA. They just register FIRs against us, and we manage to get bail from courts,” he told Kashmir Reader.
Deputy inspector general of police for north Kashmir, Garib Das, said the arrestees are categorised before their fate is decided.
“After we arrest a person, we first see which category he falls under, because we have three different categories for punishing them according to the law.
“The drug peddlers are arrested and handed over to the judicial system; drug addicts are usually sent to the rehabilitation centres for counselling; and only the main drug peddlers are booked under the PSA.” Das, however, admitted that drug abuse was on rise and that the process of punishing the guilty needed a review.
“Every system has shortcomings, but we are trying to improve the things. In future, we will try to plug these loopholes and will make sure that these drug peddlers get to face the law and are not let off easily.”