On the occasion of the UN World Mental Health Day on Wednesday (October 10, 2018), the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of NCT Delhi, the HIV/AIDS Alliance and the United Religious Initiative (URI) engaged with several Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) to formulate a comprehensive health and right-based response to drug use, at the UN Office, New Delhi. The event was graced by Health Minister (Delhi Govt) Mr. Satyendra Kumar Jain who shared insights on the future of FBOs in educating the masses, especially the youth. He also spoke about the vital role Civil Society can play in helping the Government achieve its objective of reducing the demand for drugs.
The event was an effort to increase community engagement in tackling the growing problem of drug or substance abuse in the country and promote the cause of a healthy society.
India HIV/AIDS Alliance is the Principle Recipient (PR) for the Global Fund Regional Harm Reduction Advocacy in Asia Project (2017-2019) that involves seven countries in the continent (India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal and the Philippines). The objective of the project is to maximize the impact of investments that can help break the cycle of transmission of HIV among Person Who Inject Drugs (PWID) by addressing legal, policy and health system barriers hindering the access and coverage of core services.
As per the World Drug Report 2017, an estimated quarter of a billion people, or around five per cent of the global adult population, have used drugs at least once in the past one year. Even more worrisome is the fact that about 29.5 million of these People Who Use Drugs (PUDs), or 0.6 per cent of the global adult population, suffer from drug use disorders. This exposes the rampant problem of drug abuse that needs engagement at several levels in order to be dealt with effectively. Statistics show that the present situation, especially amongst the youth, is one of drug dependence – they require medical attention and treatment for recovery.
Historically, the approach to drug treatment has been influenced by various stakeholders. Those engaged in advocacy have had an impact on a wide spectrum of issues, ranging from controls on the availability, to the availability of interventions to reduce the harm from injecting drug use. In the recent years, the profile and importance of advocacy organizations in this area has increased by leaps and bounds. This change has been driven by a range of developments, including a greater number of formal mechanisms through which policymakers can be accessed and the increased ease of communication and information dissemination. The result has been an expansion of possibilities for engaging in advocacy for drug treatment and policy at local as well as national level.
While the Indian constitution promotes a secular approach towards development assistance, a universe of faith-based development co-exists, where different religions have had an influence on communities, providing services to this disadvantaged section of drug users. FBOs make for a diverse stakeholder group and can greatly influence the outlook towards drug-related issues in the country. Even though such organizations have worked closely with other marginalized communities in the past, their involvement in advocacy for drug treatment policies has been rarely documented, leaving enormous unexplored potential for facilitating a change in the mindset of the society at large.
The consultation, thus, will provide an open platform for stakeholders, especially the faith-based organizations, to develop an understanding of the issue surrounding PUDs and other sub-groups like women, adolescents and inmates. This strategic partnership with FBOs will, thus, help formulate a better legal as well as policy framework to address the healthcare and human rights of PUDs.
The alarmingly escalating figures on drug use in the country have brought together the Global Fund Regional Grant, India HIV/AIDS Alliance along with other key stakeholders including United Nations Office of Information and Communication Technology(UNOICT), World Health Organisation(WHO), United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), Department of Health, Government Delhi, National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and URI to engage with FBOs and grassroots-level workers to understand the alternative approaches to dealing with the problem.
1. H.H. Acharya,DrLokesh Muni ji: President Ahimsa Vishwa Bharti
2. Dr Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi: Chief Imam, All India Imam Organisation
3. Paramjeet Singh Chandok ji: Chairman Bangla Sahib Gurudwara
4. Goswami Sushil ji Maharaja Chairman: Maharishi Bhrigu Sansthan
5. Father Bento Rodrigues: Father Agnel Trust
6. Dr Indu Balaji: Vice President World Council of Arya Samaj
7. Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati ji: Parmarth Niketan
8. Sadhvi Tapeshwari Bharti: Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansathan
9. GautamVig: Art of Living
10. Dr A.K. Merchant: Lotus Temple & Baha’i Community of India
11. Syed Salman Chishty: Dargah Ajmer Sharif
12. Dr Prem: Mata Amritanandamayi ji
13. Mahant Vaibhav Sharma ji: Hanuman Mandir, Kashmere Gate
14. Shri Ramesh Negi: Chairperson, Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR)