A drugged society?

At least one airlines staff tests positive for drugs everyday or every time a test is conducted.

The staff were tested five times for controlled substances between June 25 and August 2. Seven tested positive in all​. That we have an airline ​staff flying or working on drugs everyday is a slap ​on the efforts that claim to make Bhutan a drug​-​free society.

We are becoming a society where finding a drug to abuse and traffic is much easier than finding a job. So numbed we have become by the rampant abuse of drugs that our authorities consider any case of drug abuse, be it among those walking the streets or those flying the national airlines the norm. We are becoming a drugged society that is perpetually in a trance.

We have failed.

The government’s decision in handling the drug cases in the airlines industry is incompetence extraordinaire.  Suspending officials and allowing them to return to work once they come clean does not work as deterrence. Rather, it is​ an encouragement. We only have to look at the police and court records to see the cases of repeat offenders.

But in this instance with the aviation industry, drug abuse becomes an administrative issue. Elsewhere, it is a criminal offence. But again, double standards are as much a norm in our society as drug abuse. By justifying inaction to the lack of rules in the service manual, it appears that the safety of passengers and national disgrace matters little to our authorities. What matters is whether one is abusing controlled substances inside or outside the premises of the airport.

The SP plus saga and the recent intervention by the Supreme Court is enough to highlight the defects in our laws. In its recent judgment, the Supreme Court has pointed out the legislature’s failure. It appears that every time we have an issue involving controlled substances, there are failures. From the legislature to the enforcement agencies and those in between, such as the airlines industry, we are failing. We are unable to prevent controlled substances from entering the country. This has led to our correction facilities being overcrowded by drug offenders and rehabilitation centres being overwhelmed.

In the process, thousands of young lives are being criminalised and among others, ​are deprived of employment opportunities. But for those working in the aviation sector, abusing drugs becomes almost a privilege.

The rampant use and abuse of controlled substances calls for a thorough review of the situation. The government must initiate a comprehensive study if it cannot hold those accountable. We need to account for resources that are spent on addressing the substance abuse problem and assess the impacts of measures taken. We need to understand where we are failing as a society ​where our youth and professionals alike are taking to drugs. There is a need to explore more measures and go beyond awareness creation events.

If we are to make Bhutan a drug​-free society, our efforts have to be reviewed and renewed. An issue of national concern needs more attention than the ​usual rhetoric of politicians. In this fight against drugs, failure is not an option.

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