The ruling LDF and opposition UDF in Kerala on Wednesday resolved to jointly fight the increasing drug menace in the state with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announcing stringent measures in the assembly to the curb the evil.
The detention of habitual offenders for two years without trial, preparation of a data bank of those punished under NDPS Act and steps to ensure maximum punishment for the offenders were among the various measures announced by the Chief Minister.
The otherwise warring ruling and opposition benches engaged in constructive discussions when Congress MLA P C Vishnunath came up with a notice seeking adjournment motion over the alarming increase in drug cases in the southern state.
Over 16,000 drug cases have been reported so far in 2022, he noted drawing the government's urgent attention to the need to check the growing menace in the society.
He said the narcotics have become a major bane as criminals, eyeing profit, target even young children studying in schools in the state.
The legislator also narrated an alleged incident in a school where a 14 year old boy sexually abused 11 children after providing them drugs.
In his reply, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said it is an undisputed fact that the drug consumption and trade have been posing a threat to the society for some time.
Noting that it was not an issue confined to the state or the country, he said the LDF government was viewing it with utmost seriousness.
"The number of arrests for trafficking and selling drugs has increased tremendously in recent times and this is a result of concerted efforts taken by government agencies," Mr Vijayan said.
The Excise and the Police departments are conducting a coordinated drug hunt in the state.
Quoting figures, the Chief Minister said as many as 4,650 cases have been registered in 2020 and 5,334 cases in 2021 in connection with the drug consumption.
A total of 16,128 cases have been registered till August 29 this year.
If 5,674 people were arrested in 2020, the number rose to 6704 in 2021.
"As many as 17,834 people have been arrested in drug cases so far this year," the CM added.
If substances like ganja were widely used in the past, the current major threat was the widespread availability and consumption of synthetic drugs, he said, adding that such drugs are even making their way to educational institutions through various means.
He also stressed the need for a coordinated approach of various government agencies with the support and participation of people in eliminating drug abuse.
Detailing various measures being implemented by his government, Mr Vijayan said the habitual offenders involved in drug cases would be detained.
A history sheet of those involved in such cases multiple times would be prepared and they would be constantly monitored, the Chief Minister said adding that steps would be taken to observe 'Gandhi Jayanthi'' as 'anti-narcotic day' in the state and awareness programmes would be conducted in educational institutions to mark the occasion.
The parent teachers' association (PTA), NCC, NSS and similar platforms in educational institutions would also be used to fight the evil.
During the discussion, the opposition UDF members extended whole-hearted support to the efforts being taken by the government in the fight against drugs.
During the Chief Minister's reply, senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala sought the Centre's intervention to amend the NDPS Act to ensure stringent punishment for those involved in the illegal trade of drugs.
According to the law, those caught with ganja weighing less than one kg escape by misusing the loopholes in the Act. The chief minister accepted his suggestion and said laws have to be further strengthened to save the society from the threat.
Welcoming the steps announced by the government to curb the menace, Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, V D Satheesan said the society should launch a united fight against drugs, which according to him, is a major challenge being faced by Kerala.
Appealing to the government to prioritise the issue, Mr Satheesan said the drug mafia has laid traps everywhere targeting children. He said during a visit to a de-addiction centre, he could notice that out of 85 young inmates, 37 were girls.
As they extended support to the government's drive against drugs, the opposition did not press for the motion.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)