Drug Addiction in Punjab – 2, by Toral Varia

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/04/hurricane-lashing-india-punjab-201442982348612953.html

Maqboolpura, Punjab

Former DGP Shashi Kant: “As ADGP (Intelligence) I had submitted a report with a list of sitting various ministers and MLAs of all political parties who are profiting from this dark enterprise.

The scale of drug abuse in the state became public in 2009 through a submission to the Punjab and Haryana High Court by Harjit Singh, secretary of the department of social security and women and child development in Chandigarh.

Singh said more than two thirds of the state’s rural household has at least one drug addict – a proportion that in 2014 may now be even higher. Today an estimated 66 per cent of Punjab’s youths are thought to be taking medical or synthetic drugs.

He wrote: “The vibrancy of Punjab is virtually a myth. Many sell their blood to procure their daily doze of deadly drugs, even beg on streets for money to continue their addiction.

“The entire Punjab is in the grip of drug hurricane which weakens the morale, physique and character of the youth. We are in the danger of losing the young generation.”

‘Village of widows and orphans’

Maqboolpura

There are active drug addicts in at least 384 families in the neighbourhood and nearly 100 local boys are currently held in Amritsar Central Jail on drugs related cases.

Bhooki, a cigarette rolled with poppy husk seeds, while listening to Punjabi songs.

Easily obtain injections and even ice (crystal meth) from a local chemist shop.

Election Commission seized heroin, poppy husk, opium, cannabis.

Former addict who is now clean does not want to return to his village during election season because the free distribution by the politicians might tempt him back to addiction.

Across Punjab there are 63 licensed private drug counselling and rehabilitation centres, only 10 government counterparts. Acute shortage of de-addiction and rehabilitation centres, Amanjeet Singh, president of the Punjab State Drug Counselling and Rehabilitation Centres Union, said.

Social factors

Declining agricultural economy, growing unemployment, the travails of rural life and Punjabi machismo.

Most cases have revealed a similar modus operandi among smugglers in both Pakistan and India of supplying and receiving consignments through border villages.

“As the fence is electrified, smugglers use a large and long plastic pipe to drop the narcotics. The packets are inserted from Pakistan side and received on the Indian side by the smugglers,” reads one statement to the local police in the Tarn Taran border district.

A farmer from the same area, on the condition of anonymity, said: “We don’t make enough money. The easiest way is to join hands with those involved in nasha taskari (drug smuggling). We lease our land for a sum and become couriers.”

Drugs and politics

Jagdish Bhola, a suspended DSP accused of drug trafficking: “I am just a pawn in the hierarchy of drug trade in the state – the real kingpins are politicians.”

Based on Bhola’s revelations, police arrested a hotelier, Maninder Singh Aulakh – a local treasurer and election organiser for the ruling SAD – and a business associate from Himachal Pradesh, Jagjit Singh Chahal, who has also been linked to Akali leaders. Aulakh is said to be close to senior Akali legislators and allegedly used government vehicles to smuggle the synthetic drugs.

The allegations reinforce those made in 2012 by another drug lord, Raja Kandola, who also accused politicians and police of complicity.

Lack of political will

At every public meeting Congress party candidate Amarinder Singh has named “Majithia as the conduit between state drug traffickers and those settled abroad.”

His BJP rival Arun Jaitley has often repeated that “the borders have to be sealed to make it impossible for anyone to smuggle drugs.

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About Raghu Mahajan

Physics PhD student at Stanford University: http://web.stanford.edu/~rm89/
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