Be it the attrition rate of teachers or the drug abuse arrests, the government has said that it is either not too concerned or the trend is not alarming. Citing statistics and comparing with the past figures, the government conveniently plays down these social issues.
Such positions may allay fears among the public who may be concerned over the rising number of drug cases or teachers leaving their profession. But it does not mean that there are no issues to be addressed. A situation does not need to be ‘alarming’ for the government to take actions.
Take the issue of drug abuse. At least, one person gets arrested every day in Thimphu for trafficking of controlled substances. Of the 4,668 students reported for abusing drugs last year, 4,000 were from schools in Thimphu. That’s 12 students abusing drugs everyday. These numbers should alarm the government. Our children are taking to drugs and seeking solace in substances that are harmful to their wellbeing. The society must be concerned because it raises questions of access and affordability. Cracking down on these cases at home makes little difference when access from the bordering towns is not controlled.
It is good that the government is looking at providing legal aid to those implicated for drug abuse. But while it is at it, it must also address the problem at the source. We do not wait for people, especially youth to get caught so that we could show the government’s efforts. The issue concerns the country’s future and, addressing it, no matter how small the number of those affected, must be a priority, not a situation to pull off political stunts.
Unemployment is another issue. While acknowledging the good aspects, audit reports have also pointed out lapses in the programmes that were initiated to generate employment opportunities. With the authority now questioning the independence of labour force survey reports and its findings, it could be discomforting to the government to cite the same statistics to justify the situation.
But the bigger picture here should be beyond justifications. The cases of drug abuse and unemployment must merit attention from authorities just as the cases of mental health. From what health officials said, we don’t know how many mental health patients remain neglected or locked up in homes after they are discharged from hospitals. Our civil society organisations are doing their best but for them to come together and act on it, they must be made aware about such situations. The government could show its solidarity by supporting the initiatives.
For now, it appears that the government is waiting to be alarmed, which is being complacent. Where it is expected to be proactive, it is reactive. It is a matter of lives and, for a small society like ours, even one life is one too many. We don’t wait to be shocked.