New Delhi: Anie Ribu Joshy, a 17-year-old student from Kerala, is considered the world’s youngest anti-drug activist. Anie rose to attention when she challenged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to wipe out the drug mafia from the country. Appreciating his efforts in bringing issues such as clean India to the forefront and reposing faith in his leadership, the youngster implored Modi to take action against disastrous things such as drugs, alcohol and tobacco products and save the youth from ruining their lives.
Her ambition is to become global ambassador against alcohol and drug abuse. Unflinchingly honest, Anie admits she has learnt from her own life’s experience. “I have no inhibitions in saying that the death of my father due to alcoholism prompted me to take up the crusade,” she said.
Anie was just four years old when her father died. Too young to understand the loss then, she recollects running around and playing in the house on funeral day. “The gravity of the situation hit me when I grew up and realised that the pattern followed in many families. Instead of shying away from the issue, I decided to [face it head on],” she said.
After raising her concerns over social media, she began reading up on substance abuse. She talked to experts and attended classes to understand the subject. “In 2014, I posted my first blog, which created waves, and I drew immense support from different parts of India. This nurtured my confidence. I am extremely grateful to my mother, a freelance financial journalist, who is a huge support and always advised me to use the social media for a good cause.
“One day, it just struck me that the best way to spread the message globally was to do it by addressing the Prime Minister through a video. The video not only grabbed the attention of people nationally and internationally, it also led to the Prime Minister mentioning it during his radio programme, Mann ki Baat. Promptly, the mission had reached the next level,” she said.
There were several enquiries from the Prime Minister’s Office. Also, Member of Parliament and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Professor Richard Hay had an extensive discussion with Anie about initiating anti-drug training programmes in schools all over India.
The Grade 12 student of Amrita Vidyalayam, Thrissur, Kerala, launched a non-government organisation called Aglow Foundation, under which she has taken several initiatives, including working for the tribal communities in Kerala. Upon finding out that many tribal men succumb to alcohol and smoking, she introduced a programme to help them and their families.
The knowledge that she gathered from meeting experts helped her speak spontaneously about the ill effects of drugs. At the age of 15, she had begun giving ‘motivational’ talks in schools. “I don’t know if I can call my mission motivational, as motivation comes from one’s own self. But yes, I do navigate people and provide mind and neuro training to students of grade eight onwards, as that’s an impressionable age, where children can make or mar their lives. Gradually, the mission has reached colleges, clubs and corporate offices,” she said.
Anie has addressed more than 700 institutions and trained more than 400,000 students. Wherever she goes, students come up to her in droves. “Many times I am asked to stay on for longer and talk more, sign autographs and pose for photographs,” she laughs.
The youngster claimed her V-Can Brain Training, a programme approved by the Kerala government, has led to many youngsters willing to stop using narcotics. The project was appreciated immensely and hundreds of students with their parents came forward to support her.
Another project called Chilsmo, an online challenge for the youth, is meant to encourage them not to smoke. The challenge is to grab a spicy hot chilly and take a vow to quit smoking. Anie elaborates, “As chilly contains folic acid and vitamin C, it benefits smokers and non-smokers. I plan to conclude this programme on the International Anti-Drug Day on June 26. Even though I call it conclusion, it is just the beginning, as already widespread in the country; the challenge has hit the right notes globally.”
Anie follows a particular module, but improvises the pattern to suit the audience. She explains, “The Students Inner Power Enhancement Project is a neuro-mind training session. Its objective is to enlighten students below the age of 25 not to use any stimulants because brain development takes place between the ages of 20-25 years. Seeing its success, youth from all over the world joined hands with me and I formed an international student movement called White Band. Now, student leaders have formed anti-drug groups to create trainers and are fighting for a drug-free world.”
She feels the reason why youngsters take to alcohol and drugs is because they have no future plans and lack confidence. “When in class, it is easy for them to reply in groups. But individually they are not strong. I believe we can influence our life and create our destiny by changing our thoughts. And that’s where my training helps, as I try to create confidence in students.
“Substance abuse is the root cause of all evils in the world. If we see around us, all crimes, including child abuse and murder, are related to alcohol and drug consumption. They destroy peace in the family. And my focus is to world towards betterment of the entire family,” she said.