Bilara villagers mobilise against addiction

In a unique campaign, residents of Lamba have imposed boycott and penalties on trade of drugs, alcohol and tobacco products

Reeling under the drug menace for several years, people in a few villages of Jodhpur district’s Bilara block have come together to tackle addiction among youth. Along with the boycott of persons consuming liquor, tobacco and narcotics, villagers have decided to impose a penalty on the sellers and buyers of these substances.

A unique campaign has been launched in the villages as a social reform exercise to create a situation where there is no demand for illicit drugs. Though the COVID-19 lockdown affected the supply chain of drugs earlier this year, narcotic substances became freely available again after the restrictions were eased.

Villagers in Lamba, situated 19 km from the Block headquarters, held a meeting at the village square last month and announced fines ranging between ₹2,100 and ₹11,000 after a unanimous decision. “We are concerned not just about addiction. The repercussion of an increase in the crime rate warranted urgent action,” Sarpanch Ghewar Ram Bishnoi told The Hindu.

As part of the penalties, individuals found selling heroin will be required to pay ₹11,000, while those consuming the substance will pay a fine of ₹5,100. A fine of ₹11,000 will be imposed on sellers of liquor and ₹2,100 on those drinking liquor.

The Bishnoi-dominated village with a population of 6,000 is also concerned about the increasing consumption of tobacco and gutka. Mr. Bishnoi said a separate penalty of ₹1,100 and ₹501 was also proposed for those selling and buying gutka, cigarette and beedi within the community. The meeting was attended, among others, by panchayat members and village elders.

The initiative taken in Lamba has had a ripple effect in the villages of the Bilara block. The people in the villages such as Bhavi, Tilwasni, Hariyada, Jetiwas, Hapat and Jelwa have supported the move and asked their panchayat representatives to formally take a similar decision.

The mobilisation of villagers in support of de-addiction has encouraged them to voluntarily abstain from the consumption of narcotic substances. “Since the announcement of penalties, there has not been a single instance of the fine actually being imposed. Lamba is set to become a model village in healthy lifestyle,” Bhuta Ram Bawri, 45, a farmer in the village, said.

Bhairon Singh Prajapat, a shop owner in Bhavi, said he has stopped selling tobacco pouches and cigarettes since he came to know of the collective decision in Lamba. Addiction among youngsters was a major reason for rising crimes, illiteracy and backwardness of rural areas in this part of western Rajasthan, he said.

The Bilara Panchayat Samiti is also planning to start a counselling service for helping out youth willing to quit drug addiction. De-addiction camps to be organised in association with voluntary groups will highlight the impact of narcotics on the health of young people and the financial condition of their families.

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