PANAJI: The child rights body took cognizance of the emerging substance abuse problem among children and brought together all stakeholders on a common platform on 21st April at Seminar Hall, Secretariat, Porvorim, to address the same through a multilateral, multipronged setting through effective and increased cooperation.
The Commission will provide leadership to the largest coordinated effort to fight substance abuse amongst children in the state with decisive plans and quarterly monitoring.
Taking heed of the report by the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) of the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the Chairperson said that both the districts in Goa are identified as vulnerable and that an addiction plague is steadily swallowing Goa.
Addressing the stakeholders in opening remarks, he said that our response demands an urgent, integrated, mutually reinforcing, evidence-informed, balanced and comprehensive approach to supply and demand reduction strategies.
While progress continues to be made, community-centric policing, medical consultation and intervention, awareness programmes and proactive governmental intervention is the need of the hour, he said.
He called on stakeholders to affirm their unwavering commitment to addressing substance abuse, especially focusing on primary prevention, early intervention, treatment, care, rehabilitation, recovery, and social reintegration measures.
The interactions with the stakeholders at the meeting resulted in the following recommendations which are made by the Commission towards a path to a drug-free Goa:
1. The Commission recommends a complete ban on surrogate advertising of VIMAL elaichi masala on KTCL buses, as consumption of the same is being noticed among children and being found in schools too. Section 5 of the COTPA Act 2003 prohibits direct and indirect advertisements of tobacco products. As a result, advertisements of surrogate products like ‘vimal pan masala’ is seen on the KTCL buses. Banning of the display of such product will reduce the disproportionate health and economic burden among the poor, it’s use is increasingly concentrated among the poor and other vulnerable groups. Such a move will generate significant government revenues for health and development work. Action: Kadamba Transport Corporation Limited (30 days)
2. The Commission recommends special coordinated drives by Goa Police in collaboration with the Directorate of Education to curb sales of liquor, biddies/cigarettes, gutkha and other tobacco products within 100 meters radius of the schools and educational institutions, including coaching centres for children, as per Section (6) of the COTPA 2003. Directorate of Education to issue special circular to schools in this regard for identification and action. Action: Directorate of Education and Goa Police (30 days)
3. Ensure 100 per cent compliance of “’No Smoking Area – Smoking here is An Offence & Tobacco Free Educational Institution” signage at the entrance(s) of educational institutions, as per Section 4 of COTPA and marking of 100 yards area from the outer limit of boundary wall/fence of the educational institution. Action: Directorate of Education (30 days)
4. Ensure 100 % formation of Prahari Clubs in Schools / Higher Secondary Schools and create an annual plan for engagement with students with the nodal officer. Action: Directorate of Education (30 days)
5. Formulation and adaptation of school drug policy to set normative values and expectations for student behavior as well as to document procedures for dealing with drug-related incidents in schools. Action: Directorate of Education and Goa SCPCR
6. Capacity building of counsellors, nodal officers of Prahari clubs, the health system and other actors is recommended for creating a cadre of human resources to effectively respond to the problem. Action: Directorate of Education and Goa SCPCR
7. Create and submit an effective plan of action to the Commission for targeted, sustainable drug demand reduction programmes among children with the engagement of stakeholders and submit it to the Commission. Action: Directorate of Social Welfare (30 days)
8. Children have become soft targets, and there is an incremental upsurge in the usage of e-cigarettes and vapes among children, with added flavours and attractive designs.
The Commission recommends greater education about the harms associated with vaping and more intensive monitoring and enforcement of the ban as per the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Act 2019 to assist in reducing uptake in children.
Action: Goa Police and Food and Drug Administration (30 days)