“Stop this counterproductive war on drugs,” that’s the message supporters of the ‘Support. Don’t Punish’ Campaign are shouting out on Friday Morning. Patna, the capital of Bihar joins activists across some 150 cities around the world, calling to ‘put an end to the expensive and counterproductive war on drugs.’
Activists, former drug addicts, and drug users are gathering at Patna’s historic Gandhi Maidan, at 9 in the morning, and will walk in a small procession to the Kargil Chowk. The organizations behind this are India HIV/AIDS Alliance and their local partners Sister Nivedita Memorial Trust and Centre Direct along with Bihar Drug Users Forum. “The objective is to promote respect and emphasize the human rights of people who use drugs, and to raise awareness of how punitive laws prevent access to essential health services. After the demonstration, representatives of the HIV/AIDS Alliance and local partners will present petitions to the Health Secretary and the director of the Bihar State Aids Control Society.
June 26 is the international Day Against Drug Abuse and International Trafficking. This day has traditiobnally been used by governments to ‘celebrate’ drug arrests, seizures and even executions. the ‘Support. Don’t Punish Global Day of Action’ is an attempt to change the narrative, and to highlight the need for a better approach.
“It is a start to an open debate about the world drug problem. The war on drugs has failed. It has failed to reduce the drug use or the drug supply. It costs more than $100 billion each year to enforce. What it has achieved is the mass arrests and punishments of the vulnerable and poor communities. It fuels human rights violations and HIV epidemics,” said a spokesperson from the North Regional Office of India HIV AIDS Alliance in Patna.
The campaign is a global initiative. It’s being led by the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), International network of People who use drugs (INPUD) and harm reduction International (HRI), along with International HIV/AIDS Alliance.
The central theme of the campaign is simple. “Do not criminalize people who use drugs. Your harsh punishments and even death sentences hasn’t stopped people from using drugs. It has only pushed the users underground, and is causing much greater harm. This should not be confused with advocacy for production of harmful substances. While the traffickers should be punished, harsh punishments for the users serves no real purpose. There is also the question of lifting the ban on some of the traditional herbs, but that is another debate altogether,” said an activist.