Politics News

No Lack of Politicking Over Drugs in Punjab, But Political Parties Fail to Come Up with Concrete Plan

Even as Punjab’s drug crisis rages, it has once again found the top spot among political issues in the assembly elections this time. All political parties have promised to resolve the state’s “drug problem” but little has been done to come up with concrete solutions.

In the 2017 assembly elections, too, both Congress and AAP had promised action against the “drug syndicate”.

Former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, in his election campaign, had taken an oath over the Gutka Sahib, a book of Sikh religious hymns, to “break the backbone of drugs” in the state in four weeks. This the promise for which Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu targeted him, but Captain has maintained that he did a lot to curb the drug problem in the state.

Under the Amarinder Singh-led state government, a special task force (STF) was created and Punjab started opening opioid assisted treatment (OOAT) centres in October 2017. These centres administer de-addiction medicine to patients.

In nearly every assembly constituency, voters are once again raising the drug issue along with lack of employment. The issue branches out into drug trafficking and drug abuse, which are interrelated.

Punjab is on the route of the international drug trade, indicating the easy availability of drugs. Opium-based drugs, such as heroin and poppy husk, cannabis and pharmaceutical drugs are the most abused.

Decriminalisation?

With all the political parties talking about “resolving” the drug problem, former Patiala MP Dr Dharamvir Gandhi feels that they are making fake promises, and that drug trafficking happened due to political patronage.

In 2016, Dr Gandhi had moved a private member’s bill in parliament to decriminalise natural drugs, such as poppy husk, opium and marijuana. Navjot Sidhu, too, had supported this stand while his wife Navjot Kaur recently raised this issue.

Dr Gandhi said, “The NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act, 1985, criminalised the use of natural/traditional drugs. It led to the creation of the drug mafia. Natural drugs became so expensive in the black market that synthetic drugs started coming in. While natural drugs did not lead to death, the youth is dying every day in Punjab using synthetic drugs.”

He also said the drug mafia had been created through political patronage as well as police involvement.

Police involvement in the drug issue is well-documented. Among many other cases against police officials, the major one is related to former deputy superintendent of police Jagdish Singh Bhola, who was sentenced to 24 years’ imprisonment in a multi-crore drug racket case.

Shiromani Akali Dal leader Bikram Majithia, whose name figured in the STF Report 2018, was also booked under the NDPS Act just before the elections and after Captain’s ouster. Majithia has been granted protection from arrest by Supreme Court till February 23.

An expert said action in such cases would serve as a deterrent, but it will also create a more secret nexus.

‘Directionless’ youth

Along with illicit drug trade, there are the other issues of addiction and fatalities from drug abuse. A majority of those who abuse drugs start at a young age.

Dr Sandeep Bhola, who is incharge of a de-addiction and rehabilitation society in Kapurthala, said most drug abusers were youngsters, who become addicts through experimentation with drugs at some point in their life. The de-addiction centre has a footfall of close to 500 to 600 patients a day who wish to be rehabilitated.

Dr Bhola said Covid-19 was a blessing in disguise when drugs were unavailable and more people came in for de-addiction. He, however, said more services should be given to addicts. “One of the major problems is that the youth is directionless and they start experimenting with drugs and become addicts,” he added.

Dr Bhola also mentioned the need for de-addiction among women and transgenders. Lack of services and sensitisation caused many people to go into relapse. Another major reason was lack of employment or rehabilitation into society.

Dr Gandhi said those who wished to be rehabilitated should be engaged in sports and provided employment. They were treated as criminals but were the victims, he added.

He further said, “Natural drugs should be regulated as it has been done in 40 states in United States. It will also add money in the pocket of the government rather than the mafia.”

He added that those who abuse drugs should be registered and allowed a certain number of plants in their kitchen gardens under the observation of the state. Experts, however, differ on the use of natural drugs for treatment or even on decriminalising the use of traditional drugs.

But when it comes to the drug problem in Punjab that is costing lives every day, most want swift action and lasting solutions.

Read all the Latest News, Breaking News and Assembly Elections Live Updates here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.