(1.) These proceedings which have been instituted under Article 32 of the
Constitution by Bachpan Bachao Andolan bring focus upon the alarming increase in
the use of drugs and alcohol among children in India. The petition has been
instituted in the public interest for enforcing the fundamental rights of children
particularly those suffering from and involved in substance use and abuse. The
petitioner seeks the intervention of this Court for a mandamus to the Union of India
to formulate and implement a national action plan for children on the issue of drugs,
alcohol and substance abuse amongst children. This must, according to the
petitioner, include in its coverage issues pertaining to identification, investigation,
recovery, counselling and rehabilitation. This essentially is the main relief which has
been sought. Other incidental directions include steps to incorporate appropriate
content in the school curriculum; creation of a coordinating body; imposing
mandatory duties for reporting drugs and substance abuse on school principals and
on the police; establishment of de-addiction centres in every district and at the tehsil
level; protecting children reporting drug use from harm; preparation of a national
database and a direction for the registration of cases against persons supplying
tobacco, alcohol and drugs to children. Supplemental reliefs are claimed in these
(2.) India is home to the largest child population in the world with over forty-four crore children, according to the census of 2011. Among this, twenty-four crore
children constituting twenty-four percent of the population of the country are
adolescent. They constitute a vulnerable age group for social, educational, moral
and physical development. Protecting children from wide-spread prevalence of
substance abuse is one of the biggest policy challenges facing India. Recent reports
both of official and private agencies indicate that there has been a substantial
increase in the prevalence of use and abuse of substances in young children. A
nationwide survey was carried out on the basis of a representative household
sample across the country as the National Family Health Survey, 2005-06. The
petitioner has relied upon several reports which indicate the nature and extent of
substance abuse in children. Many of them make recommendations for the
formulation and implementation of policy.
(3.) In this part of the judgment, we will broadly summarize the content of the reports mentioned above :
(i) Report of Planning Commission's Working Group on Adolescent and Youth Development, for formulation of 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17) :
"Substance abuse among young people is on the increase. That could be due to peer pressure or stress and frustration. Children are not fully aware of the full implications of abuse to their health and to their life. Drug mafia and cartels target young people in cities and towns and once they are addicted, it is an easy market for them."
(ii) Research Study by National Commission on Protection of Child Rights (August 2013) :
The final study sample comprised of 4024 children between 5-18 years of age. The study indicates that :
"...Of the boys aged 15-19 years (n=13,009), 28.6% reported tobacco use and 11% reported alcohol use. Similarly, in the girls aged 15-19 years (n=24,811), 3.5% reported tobacco use and 1% reported alcohol use. It appears to be an upward trend from the previous round of the survey (NFHS-2; 1998-99) where the prevalence of alcohol use was found to be 2.4% for boys and 0.6% for girls [13). Further, it appears that among those who 'drink', a significant percentage of boys and girls are using alcohol at least weekly (18.3-39.8%) or even daily (3.4-6.8%).....majority reported a lifetime use of variety of substance. Tobacco at 83.2% and alcohol (68% were the most common substance followed by cannabis (35.4%), inhalants (34.7%), pharmaceutical opiods (18.1%), sedatives (7.9%) and heroin/smack (7.9%). A significant proportion (12.6%) reported use of injectable substances."
The study showed several glaring issues pertaining to the pattern of substance abuse amongst children :
· Tobacco and inhalants were used almost on a daily basis, several other substances were being used on less than daily or intermittent basis in the past month
· The study showed that the mean age of onset was lowest for tobacco (12.3 years) followed by onset of inhalants (12.4 years), cannabis (13.4 years), alcohol (13.6 years), proceeding then to use of harder substances- opium, heroin (14.3-14.9 years) and then finally use of substances through injecting route (15.1 years).
· The study highlighted the regional issues and preferences. Choice of substance showed some regional variations.
· The study also highlighted various other issues pertaining to rehabilitation and reintegration of children in the mainstream of society.
1) The study has highlighted the pressing need for initiating programmes for prevention and treatment. There is a need to sensitize the state governments and all the important stakeholders about the problem of substance use among children in the country;
2) Prevention programmes must target multiple settings and multiple risk factors particularly vulnerable children such as children of substance users, children injecting substances, street children, children involved in child labour, trafficked children, children of sex workers and any other category most at risk;
3) Prevention in schools should include universal prevention programmes such as education and life skill programmes. School going children who are at risk should have access to professional counselling in the school setting;
4) There is need for availability of specialized treatment services for children who are using substances. These services should be available in government hospitals; NGOs funded by Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE) and also by NGOs that provide services to street children. Detoxification should be available at government run de-addiction centres with rehabilitation in NGO/Community setting with linkage with NGOs;
5) Rehabilitation efforts focussing on skill building and vocational training should be provided by NGOs;
6) Juvenile homes and Children homes should have service provision for substance using children through linkage with treatment service;
7) There is need for provision of service by the TI NGOs to children who are injecting substances. Action to be taken by NACO/SACS;
8) Prevention efforts must target both demand and supply reduction efforts. Supply reduction efforts should limit availability of tobacco and alcohol near residential areas and schools;
9) Size estimation of substance using children should be carried out in specific high risk areas, metropolitan cities and conflict areas; and
10) School based surveys should be conducted at a national level based on a representative sample.
(iii) Annual Report of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (2013-2014)Relevant part pg. 20, full report at pg. 157 :
The report defines "a victim of substance abuse" as a person who is addicted to/dependent on alcohol, narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances or any other addictive substances (other than tobacco).
The report states:
· Alcoholism and substance abuse is assuming an alarming magnitude. 12th plan envisages an urgent need for effective counter measures through programmes in convergence mode
· Various Central Ministries need better coordination and convergence.
· All existing schematic and non-schematic interventions made by the ministries need to be integrated under a Mission Mode programme.
· Preventive measures need to be taken to reduce both supply and demand and universal access to preventive treatment and rehabilitation of alcoholism and drug abuse.
· Integrated Rehabilitation Centres of Addicts (IRCAs) assisted under the scheme of assistance for the prevention of alcoholism and substance (drugs) abuse and for social defence services run by voluntary organizations need to be strengthened Page 167.
· Broad strategy Page no. 175 onwards :
The overall strategy is awareness generation, identification, counselling, treatment and rehabilitation of drug dependent persons though collaborative efforts of the Central and State Governments, Voluntary organizations and other national and international bodies. With a view to reducing the demand for and consumption of addictive substances, the thrust would be on preventive education programmes, comprehensive recovery of addicted persons and their reintegration into society.
In order to achieve the objectives of the Policy, the key strategies will be as follows :
To evolve appropriate models for the prevention of alcoholism and substance abuse, treatment and rehabilitation of drug dependent individuals;
To promote collective initiatives and self-help endeavour among individuals and groups vulnerable to dependence or found at risk;
To increase community participation and public cooperation in the reduction of demand for dependence-producing substances;
To create a pool of trained human resources personnel and service providers to strengthen the service delivery mechanisms;
To establish and foster appropriate synergy between interventions by the State, corporate initiatives, the voluntary sector and other stakeholders in the field of substance abuse prevention;
To facilitate networking among policy planners, service providers and other stakeholders with an aim to encourage appropriate advocacy;
To promote and sustain a system of continuous monitoring and evaluation including self-correctional mechanism.
It is the aim of the draft National Policy to strive for a society where use of intoxicating drugs is discouraged through awareness generation and prevention, directed towards the young and adolescents-helping individuals make appropriate choices and stay away from drugs. Persons dependent on substance abuse will be encouraged to give up drugs through a continuum of care and treatment services. Reducing the demand for addictive substances with the active support of all stakeholders, including governmental and civil society organizations, is the goal.
While recognizing the need for services, it is also necessary to increase the range of services and the access to various modalities of interventions for prevention, treatment, rehabilitation with a focus on the poor and marginalized sections of the society. Special attention would be provided to groups at high risk.
School children are highly impressionable and are influenced largely by the peer group behaviour. Appropriate interventions in the form of curricular/co-curricular contents will be put in place in the schools and colleges for awareness generation. Interventions will be evidence based and supported by sustainable strategies.
Street children/adolescents have always been vulnerable to abuse of certain drugs like pharmaceuticals, solvents, inhalants, etc. They do not have access to health care and there is a total lack of preventive initiatives for these children as they are cut off from school systems and community programmes, which are the general vehicles for such interventions. Curbing the sale and abuse of pharmaceutical and other such substances, including solvents, glue etc, will be an important element of the policy. Rights of the children are to be respected and protected. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) visualises a rights-based perspective flowing into National Policies and Programmes, along with nuanced responses at the State, District and Block levels, taking care of specificities and strengths of each region.
Facilities exclusively for such adolescents should be provided. The essential requirements for them include psycho-social support, life skill training, nutrition and health facilities, educational and formal training, recreational facilities including sports and referral services. Protective measures will be met through night shelters/drop-in centres and easy access to health services including counselling and de-addiction facilities. Police and judiciary should be sensitized about these issues.
Women and young girls are affected by drug and alcohol abuse in various ways. They suffer the economic, social and physical consequences as partners of male drug users. Some of them may themselves become addicted, increasing their vulnerability for this population sub-groups.
Recognizing the close nexus between substance abuse and HIV/AIDS and the fact that drug injecting person is vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, the National Policy envisages that the population at risk will be sensitized to the threat of and wherever necessary, treated for screening and identification for HIV/AIDS. Drug demand reduction and HIV/AIDS prevention programmes will be synergized to address the spread of HIV/AIDS amongst substance abusers.
There will be three different levels of the substance abuse intervention strategy as follows :
Primary prevention encouraging abstinence by generating awareness;
Secondary prevention to facilitate the process of behaviour change of high-risk individuals, early identification, treatment and counselling of affected individuals;
Tertiary prevention by providing rehabilitation and reintegration of recovering persons into the social mainstream.
Broad Strategy :
· Preventive education and awareness building by multiple agencies
· Comprehensive package for recovery of affected individuals
· Increase range of services
· Develop multiple modalities of interventions
(iv) National Policy on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) drafted by the Ministry of Finance, Depament of Revenue :
The Policy has attempted to curb the menace of drug abuse and contains provisions for treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration of victims of drug abuse :
· In Para 55 of the policy, special emphasis is made to stop the menace of drug abuse amongst children e.g.- local police should pay special attention to areas surrounding schools and colleges; schools and colleges to conduct surveys to assess the level of addiction; educational authorities to include a mandatory and comprehensive chapter on drug abuse and illicit trafficking and its social-economic cost.
The policy, in its Annexure includes a time bound and specific Plan of Action. The policy has prepared a 'Plan of Action' with regard to the following recommendations: National Drug Control System, National Survey on Drug Abuse, Demand Reduction Activities, Supply Reduction Activities, Control of licit cultivation of opium poppy and production of opium, etc. ;