A civil society organisation dedicated to support people affected by alcoholism, Chithuen Phendey Association (CPA), conducted a daylong campaign in Trashigang yesterday to create awareness on the ill effects of alcohol and drugs.

CPA executive director, Tshewang Tenzin, said the programme aims to educate the public and especially the business community and taxi drivers to help prevent illegal selling of drugs and alcohol.

“Our people are very irresponsible,” he said. “Today a nine-year-old can get alcohol from a bar. This, in the long run, can have severe implication on our society.”

Twenty-five students from Sherubtse College, Kanglung, assisted the association in creating advocacy to the public in the town.

The students, in groups, visited each business unit in town including those they met on the way and distributed pamphlets that contain offences and penalties on controlled substances in Bhutan.

Tshewang Tenzin said that since the first recorded incident of drug abuse in 1989 in the country, the menace has been growing, affecting the youth the most.

“Drugs might not be a problem in your family today but everyone has to play their part and take responsibility to curb this global concern,” he said.

Ignorance and lack of understanding, according to the executive director, is the main reason for the growth of drug and alcohol related issues in the country. “Drugs and alcohol are not only costly to the individual who consumes it but also a big burden to the society as a whole.”

He said that almost 80 percent of crimes recorded in Phuentsholing were related to drugs and alcohol. “When a person is caught for such misbehaviours, he/she will go in for a minimum of a month in prison. This increases the burden on the government in terms of feeding them, and providing them with shelter and clothing. ”

Tshewang Tenzin said that rehabilitation centres are not the solution to the growing drug and alcohol problems. “Preventive education is the way forward,” he said, adding that it is time the government implements the strategic plans to curb the issues in schools.

Meanwhile, Kezang Dema’s family has been running a bar and restaurant business in the heart of Trashigang town for the last two decades.

“It’s a lucrative business although the competition has been growing with several new bars opening in town,” the 52-year-old said.

The mother of seven said that alcohol is common in the east and there is no way people will stop consuming it. “I advise people to drink responsibly,” she said. “But most don’t take my words seriously.”

Kezang Dema is aware of the alcohol rules and regulations. She claimed that she observes dry days on Tuesdays seriously, only opens the bar after 1pm and makes sure she doesn’t sell after 10pm.

She, however, said there are people who do not follow the existing rules and sell alcohol on Tuesdays and during odd timings. “Everyone wants to make money.”

A Trashigang town resident, Karma Dorji, said that most business operators are illiterate and fail to apply the law uniformly. “Many people don’t care about the laws as long as they make good money,” he said.

Meanwhile, the CPA team will be conducting similar awareness programme in eight dzongkhags by June this year. The team has completed advocacy in Chhukha, Samdrupjongkhar and Trashigang.

Younten Tshedup |  Trashigang