Thoothukudi Being Transit Point For Drugs, Fishermen Fall Prey To Habit
Davidson Devasirvatham, the zonal director of the Narcotics Control Bureau conffirmed that the town is a transit point for drugs. “Organisations which are into smuggling operations use local motor launches for ferrying their cargo, which is mostly heroin and hashish,” he said. “Often, the local fishermen are pressed into service for this purpose. We have caught and confiscated several such consignments in the past few years.”
Thus exposed to the drug peddling trade, some fishermen also fall prey to the habit, explained Dr P Mahalingam, senior programme manager at APAC. “They mostly use heroin in the form of injections,” he said. “If heroine is unavailable, then they resort to injection of pharmaceutical drugs. There is the question of affordability of these drugs. But in Thoothukudi, several fishermen not only rely on income from their catch, but they also work part time in the port facility. As a result they have a slightly higher disposable income than the average fisherman.”
However, an accurate census of the IDU population is next to impossible, say APAC officials. “It’s a difficult task since they are a hidden population,” explained A Shankar, the president of Empower, a local NGO working along with APAC to combat the problem. “We have about 150 drug users registered in our ‘needle exchange’ program to prevent HIV/AIDS. But that’s only those who came forward for the program. We have already instituted intervention programs and awareness campaigns. But it is an uphill task.” What hinders the campaign is the profile of the users in Thoothukudi.
“The IDUs in cities are students who are well aware of the dangers of sharing needles,” said Shankar. “In sharp contrast, the IDU population here are mostly school dropouts and members of the fishing community. A survey that we had conducted here in 2006 showed that at least 87% of the users shared their needles.”
In addition to that, there is no drug rehabilitation centre in the district. “It’s true that there is no rehab or de–addiction centre in the town,” said Dr Mahalingam. “Instead, we refer the concerned patients to a de–addiction centre in Tirunelveli.”
Members of the fishermen’s associations, however, denied the existence of such a trend. “Several fishermen do smoke marijuana regularly,” said Anton Gomez, president of National Union of Fishermen. “But there are no injected drug users in the local fishing community,” he added.
Source: Times of India