Shri S.D. Shibulal, Chief Executive Officer, Infosys,

Mr. Sergey Kapinos, Regional Representative, ROSA,

Mr. Esbjorn Hornberg, International President, World Federation Against Drugs,

Dr. Veerendra Mishra IAS , Director, NISD,

Shri Raju Hormis, Head, CSR, Federal Bank,

Smt. Diana Joseph, Director, Fourth Wave Foundation,

Shri Raja Shanmugham, Board Member, Fourth Wave Foundation,

Shri C.C. Joseph, Director, Fourth Wave Foundation,

Dear Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

A warm Good Morning to everyone.


I am very happy to inaugurate the Asian Regional Forum Against Drugs, jointly organized by World Federation Against Drugsand Fourth Wave Foundationin collaboration with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime [UNODC].

The support rendered by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Govt. of Indiaand the Excise Commissionerate of the Govt of Keralaindicates the social significance of this programme, which is being organized in India for the first time.

Let me at the outset, compliment the organizers for conducting this Conferenceon an issue of great current relevance. Let me also welcome to Kerala, the delegates who are representing 28 nations.

In fact, the rampant use of alcohol and drugs is an issue that no sane society can ignore. As all of us know, the context in which this Conference is being held, is rather worrying, when we realize that in Asia, the number of people using opiates and other drugs had considerably increased in the last year. The National Drug Use surveys conducted in India in 2018 has also revealed a higher prevalence of the use of such drugs. Coming to Kerala, which is known as God’s Own Country, and noted for its very high literacy, there has been a 78 per cent increase in drugs and narcotics related crimes since 2014. Quite sadly, this very city of Kochi, where this Conference is held, now ranks third in India in drug related crimes. Equally worrying is the fact that Kerala is also noted for very high consumption of alcohol and a high rate of suicides.

It is true that the Directive Principles of our Constitution cites Prohibition as one of the responsibilities of the government.  But, the magnitude of the issues of alcoholism and substance abuse is so alarming that governmental measures alone may not be enough to control the damage, especially in the context of the revelation that India has 3.1 Crore Cannabis users and 2.3 Crores Opioid Users. It was only two years ago that a survey found nearly 78000 people using injectable drugs in Punjab, where, another survey in the villages of Jalandhar showed that every third person was hooked to drugs other than alcohol and tobacco.   In Kerala, almost 70% of school children were reported to be vulnerable to narcotics abuse.

These statistical revelations should actually worry us beyond all limits, but many of us tend to respond as if this is a problem of elsewhere and not of our society.  The physical, familial, economic and social impacts of substance abuse have to be addressed through coordinated efforts. The legal implications faced by the offenders in this area are strong enough to work as deterrents. Yet, we find thousands of people risking their freedom and health to indulge in substance abuse.  This points to the need for a stronger penetration of the anti-drug abuse messages in society.

In this context, this Conference, which aims to discussand share best practices to build and increase capacity for networking and advocacy against substance abuse, has great relevance. I am happy that the delegates would be analyzing  the Political and Strategy Document from the United Nations High Level Segment of the 62nd Commission on Narcotic Drugs, March 2019.

I am informed that on the third day of the Conference, nearly 80 young people from the 14 districts of Kerala will be joining the conference and participating in the discussions. This is a welcome step for two reasons : One, the people of our State, especially the youth should be aware of the gravity of the situation. Secondly, the youth can be seen as the best vehicle for effecting any social change. I am reminded of Swami Vivekananda, who once said : Give me 100 energetic young men and I shall transform India.True, we need young people with social commitment to effectively counter the menace of substance abuse.

Along with campaigning against substance abuse, we need to review the provisions for balanced and integrated health and criminal justice responses to drug supply and demand. This has to be based on the principle of   shared and common responsibility, political will and adequate funding for international cooperation. The need to promote the training of personnel in the treatment, after-care, rehabilitation and social reintegration of drug use disorders also deserves high priority.

Above all, there has to be constant vigil on the part of the civil society, against substance abuse. At present, many youth organizations like Student Police Cadets, National Service Scheme, National Cadet Corpsetc are active in such matters. Interestingly, we limit all our campaigns to the students and the youth in general. In fact, we have to be on guard against substance abuse at the professional levels also.

Today, all professional bodies including those in technological areas have a duty to ensure that their members are free from such a menace. A social audit in this regard is essential on the part of all employers. I think the Info Parks and Technoparks in Kerala should take a lead role in ensuring a SAFE or Substance Abuse Free Environment in their premises. I am certain Shri Shibulal, who co-founded one of the largest technology organizations in India, would take a special interest in this matter.

I compliment the organizing agencies for including a wide variety of topics and areas of discussion in this Conference. I hope they would provide to the policy makers, concrete and clear plans of action to contain this social evil.


I wish this Conference all success.

लोका:समस्ता:सुखिनो भवन्तु

 [Loka Samasta Sukhino bhavanthu : May Happiness Prevail Everywhere.]


Jai Hind