The conference had a long name – HOPE 2008 International Conference on Alcohol/Drug Abuse, HIV/AIDS, Environment, Population, and Human Rights. Over 100 persons from 11 countries attended the conference held in October in Mumbai, organized by Dr. Yusuf Merchant, president of DAIRRC (Drug Abuse Information Rehabilitation & Research Centre).

“Yusuf was wise to expand the scope,” said Clark Carr, president of Narconon International. “Drug abuse affects AIDS, AIDS affects population and human rights, and everything interacts with environment.” Carr delivered a paper on the ‘biochemical personality,’ outlining Narconon® drug rehab case histories which demonstrate a promising pattern of positive personality changes when recovering addicts cleanse toxic drug residuals from their bodies.

It’s not just drug toxins that are depressing us, of course. Speakers from Switzerland to South Africa discussed the dwindling spiral of environmental damage and population growth. Flying in from New Delhi to address the attendees was also keynote speaker, the Honorable Mrs. Meira Kumar, Minister of the Dept of Social Justice and Empowerment, a co-sponsor along with the National Institute of Social Defense. “There are two root causes of all five targets of the conference,” she said, “human greed and human deprivation.” She gave a blistering critique of those who “look down on the deprived.” “Our caste system is a human rights violation, a social injustice,” she continued, “but non-violence and education are our hopes and greatest tools.” The Minister said she preferred NGOs to tackle these problems, endemic not just to India but the whole world. “Government can’t do it. The NGOs are so passionate and dedicated.”

With its more than 145 centers delivering drug rehab or prevention services in 45 countries, Narconon was perhaps the most international organization present. “I’ve been fortunate to work with Yusuf on several occasions,” said Carr. “Several years ago we collaborated delivering drug education lectures to half a dozen Mumbai colleges.” The only permanent Narconon installation in India so far is a drug education unit in New Delhi, although Carr said they hope to open a residential drug treatment center in India in 2009.

Dr. Rosy Chhabra, another colleague of Merchant and DAIRRC, reported on a study funded by the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of DAIRRC’s successful alcohol and HIV education project. “It was totally collaborative with schools and communities,” she said. “It was because the community took charge that it was successful.”

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