His father may not have forced him to join a big college and earn the big bucks later but it was because he encouraged his fourteen year old son Yasir Zahgeer to work for the betterment of society. The encouragement was what Yasir needed at that point of time.
He is now about to touch thirties and from the last 15 years, Yasir is involved in social work, mainly the prevention of drug addiction in Kashmir which is taking a toll on young people in the state. He started working when he used to study in class 9th. He now works on honorary basis in the Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital.
Yasir Zahgeer’s father was a principal in a school and knew that these issues among the youth in the state were hardly being addressed and hence encouraged his son to work towards it.
There are around 70,000 drug addicts reported in Kashmir Division in a survey conducted by the United Nations Drug Control Programme which includes a 4,000 women population also. Also, statistics of Government Psychiatric Disease Hospital (GPDH) say that the 90 per cent of drug abusers in Kashmir belong to the age group of 17 to 35 years with a lifetime prevalence of drug addiction.
According to Yaseer, the actual figures are much higher as there has not been any comprehensive research.
“What we see is just the tip of an iceberg. There is a hidden population of drug addicts who don’t come forward. The situation in Kashmir that I have witnessed is very grim and it needs the right approach at the institutional level to control it. The youth are falling into the prey of drug abuse mostly because of the issues like unemployment, peer influence and easy availability of drugs,” said Yasir as quoted in the Tribune.
“Also, among the youth of Kashmir, the disturbed situation prevailing in the province is affecting their lives. People lose their loved ones during terror attacks making it hard to live with the loss and at that point, drugs provide them the refuge,” Yasir added.
Although there are also women involved in this awful habit but they hardly come forward for treatment because of two reasons. One, there is no de-addiction centre or rehabilitation for female drug abusers in Kashmir and second, because of the social stigma.
Yasir said that a ward for female drug abusers has been started at SMHS Hospital but it remains empty all the time.
Yasir Zahgeer belongs to the Balgarden locality of the Srinagar city and is pursuing his masters’ degree in social work. He believes that there is a need to take measures for curbing drug addiction at the community level.
“There should be there is a need to take measures at the community level. if not the inpatient facility, but at least an outpatient facility so that the young people can be treated in better places and they can be referred for rehabilitation,” says Zahgeer.
In last 14 years, Zahgeer has helped hundreds of drug addicts in getting treatment after which they are leading a normal life.
Yasir has written and co-authored a publication in the Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences with the tittle “Socio demographic and clinical profile of substance abusers attending a regional drug de-addiction centre in chronic conflict area”. He has participated and helped organise more than 35 community camps across the Valley. Recently, his book has been released titled “Hope on drug abuse prevention”. His motto is to help the urban and rural population in drug prevention.
“I am very passionate about working with drug addicts and helping them out as they are being looked down upon and stigmatised by society. I just want to tell all those people that they are our own sons and brothers, this is a disease and it needs treatment after which they can again lead a normal life,” says Zahgeer, while saying that he is very satisfied for choosing a career in social work.
With inputs from The Tribune