Editorial: Young & Vulnerable

The wrong people appear to be catching ’em young. And we don’t mean the cops

A 13-year-old finds himself among cops. The “routine checking” of vehicles which appears to the stop-and-frisk standard that passes for policing in the State allegedly found the lad in possession of Spasmo-Proxyvon, a common prescription drug of abuse. The incident immediately raises several flags, starting with the disconcerting confirmation that it appears has become “routine” for cops to suspect even 13-year-olds to be peddlers. That has to be the case, because by a recent admission of Sikkim Police, they are mindful of differentiating between peddlers and addicts and it is unlikely they have reached such levels of mindful concern that they are pulling out minors from jeeps to counsel them. So the kid was obviously “intercepted” on suspicion of being a peddler and even interrogated to ferret out the source of his supplies. As for the supplies, in this case from a while back, he had six capsules of SP, a volume that anyone can purchase over the counter in Siliguri. There is also the possibility that these were prescriptions he had picked up for someone because is six is neither enough for a peddler nor even a day’s supply for a habitual user. The incident also raises the much bigger worry on the age of initiation among the young to begin experimenting with substances of abuse. If the kid is indeed a user, then Sikkim better start deploying more than just cops to combats “drugs”. There have been instances when much younger children have turned up in school under the influence of prescription drugs. These would earlier be dismissed as one-off incidents of a ragging gone bad or copy-cat experimentation. But, if children as young as those who have barely stepped into the teen-years are into the habit without alarm bells having gone off everywhere, one worries about how deep disinterest has seeped into societal conscience. The police action should also have everyone shuddering at the thought that there is a very real possibility that the very young are being used as ‘mules’ to transship substances of abuse. Agreed, six capsules do not a consignment make, but the fact that cops picked the child out from a jeep-full of passengers suggests that this mode of smuggling is being used and that even the police are aware of it now. Maybe the teen was being used as a ‘mule’ because his age would not rouse suspicion among the personnel manning the check-posts who have become rather effective interceptors of substances of abuse. Maybe this was a dry run. Too much speculating? Can there be too little hyperventilating when it comes to news-reports of a 13-year-old “caught” with drugs in a vehicle coming into Sikkim? The vehicle was stopped, the lad picked out, checked and the substances confiscated. While the fact that children as young as 13 are abusing or are being abused as couriers might come as a shock for the sanitised distance that most readers have from such incidents, but, as already mentioned, the fact that the cops thought it necessary to check, suggests that this is not a very new strategy of the peddlers or even a very young age for people to use. Given the increased policing at the check-posts, peddlers have constantly been devising new ways to ferry in contraband – from using women as couriers to filling tyres and tubes with contraband to opting for keeping it in plain sight on the dashboard, hoping that the obvious would be overlooked, they have tried everything; and the cops have learnt to expect ingenuity in how drugs are brought in. But the desperation of the peddlers is not necessarily a positive. For one, the fact that they continue bringing in stuff despite the risks [SADA is a cruel act] is proof that addiction has not gone down in Sikkim, neither have addiction levels. The deployment of innocents as couriers or the conversion of minors into the habit is also suggestive of the depths of depravity the business is willing to fall to. This should worry everyone concerned. The children are already disadvantaged in Sikkim where an elder generation pursues different priorities and rarely makes the time or funds for the young. The underprivileged, who should be receiving more societal attention, are left exposed to the wily mechanisations of peddlers and their ilk and hence vulnerable to exploitation as couriers or initiated into addiction. Both of these are happening and a blatant abuse of what children deserve plays on. The fact that at a time when government schools across the state are having their final exams, a 13-year-old was “caught” with “drugs” at an inter-state check-post raises too many more distress flags than the State is apparently willing to even notice. A closer introspection by the State and its people is urgently required to question how such young children are being left exposed to the temptation of drugs…