DHUBRI, Sept 9 - Already fighting a host of developmental challenges, Dhubri is now beginning to witness a disturbing rise in the number of sex workers, especially those involved in home-based prostitution, and so has the number cases pertaining to HIV positive and injected drug users.
Moreover, records show that the number of injected drug users and oral drug users has shown unprecedented increase in alarming manner, thanks to the ever mushrooming and unabated drug trade witnessed in the district.
While some attribute the disturbing trend to lack of employment opportunities, there are also sections which believe that the Government’s intervention programme has not reached the targeted group in a desired manner.
“From around 400 sex workers identified in 2006, the figure today has gone up to nearly 2,000,” a baseline study conducted by North East Voluntary Association for Rural Development (NEVARD), an NGO working in the district since 2006 told The Assam Tribune.
Fakaruddin Ali of NEVARD said, “Displacement due to flood and erosion and lack of earning avenues are two of the prime reasons behind the rise in number of sex workers. Some operate by the highway (NH 31) but most of them are part of home-based prostitution. If you go by the figures, the number of sex workers has gone up by several times.”
Azizul Hoque, president of Fulkumari Bapuji Club, another organisation working in the field opined, “Besides the increase in number of sex workers in the district, another disturbing trend is unprecedented rise in the number of injected and oral drug users.”
“In the last few years, 300 cases of injected drug users have been identified, mostly in the age group of 14 to 30 years,” Hoque said, adding that it largely due to unsafe sex and injected drug abuse that the number of HIV positive cases, especially the new ones, has increased. Since 2006, over 130 cases of HIV positive have been detected in Dhubri, Hoque said.
He said that they have engaged some sex workers and employ them as peer educators so that they can educate the others (sex workers) on safe sex.
A senior government official, requesting anonymity, said, “As far as I know, a drug de-addiction centre was approved way back in 2011-12 for Dhubri and money was also released. But for some reasons it is yet to be functional. The rehabilitation centre in Guwahati and Siliguri are not favoured because of the distance and cost involved.”