IMPHAL, February 9: “There is no reason why a criminal case can’t be filed against the Health Minister who has kept more than 300 people using drugs (PUD) under continuous ill-treatment and torture by not providing Oral Substitution Therapy (OST) for more than three years despite budgetary allocations,” said Khaidem Mani.
According to the UN Special Rapporteur, deprivation of Oral Substitution Therapy to the needy is an ill-treatment and torture and hence around 60 percent of the total population of PUD has been tortured for the last two years by the state government, the senior advocate stated in a press meet convened at the office of the Community Network for Empowerment (CoNE) Palace Compound on Sunday.
The chief minister has given words during the observation of World Aids Day in 2011 that OST would be implemented in three districts of the state. But till today except Senapati, the remaining the two districts, Thoubal and Chandel, have been left out, depriving the PUDs in these two districts the benefits of OST, he informed.
Human rights activist Babloo Loitongbam said, “Implementation of OST is a must as it is a means for PUD to stop using illegal drugs and coming back into the mainstream. This will also help in controlling the spread of HIV and AIDS. It is only the police and armed forces that are often looked upon as human rights violators but a government who fails to deliver services that it is mandated to provide also amounts to right violation.” “ In spite of the guidelines of NACO to implement OST in the state under World Bank funding and even after the comment of the chief minister for implementing the OST in another three districts of the state, the non implementation till today in these three districts clearly proves that funds of three years has been misused,” he added.
“The objective number six of the Millennium Development Programme i.e. the halt and reverse of HIV is going to fail in Manipur as the most effective strategy for HIV prevention amongst the IDU is not yet implemented widely.”
Meanwhile, RK Nalinikanta, the president of CoNE said that the non-implementation of OST amounts to continuous ill-treatment and torture of the people who are entitled to receive the service and is in fact a criminal act. We can file a PIL against the perpetrators; in this case, the state government, and they have to face trial.
Further mentioning that despite the approval of 19 sites among 34 sites and budget from NACO, the state failed to implement OST for the last two-three years.
Manipur is the first state to have a state AIDS policy in the country. OST is a well accepted strategy for HIV prevention under the harm reduction framework. Opioid Substitution therapy programme are effective in substantially reducing illicit Opiate use, HIV risk behaviours, death from overdose and criminal activity; enhance social functioning and financial and other stresses on drug users and their families.
According to the latest validation report of Manipur State AIDS Control Society (MSACS), there are 22210 injecting drug users (IDUs) in Manipur. There are 10 OST centres in Manipur in total where 9 are run by the NGOs and one in the Government health facility implementing OST service. As per guidelines of NACO, 4442 IDUs are supposed to be covered. At the moment, these existing 10 OST centres are covering 1140 IDUs with OST service.
CoNE has appealed to the government to implement the remaining OST centres approved by the state within February 28.
It has furthered inform the government that if they do not take up any positive actions within the given period, CoNE will file a FIR against the health Minister and commissioner of health and other officials.