Drug Addiction in Punjab, by Jim Yardley


Pakistani border, wheat harvest, water buffaloes.


Opium, refined as heroin or other illegal substances.

Schoolboys sometimes eat small black balls of opium paste, with tea, before classes.

Synthetic drugs are popular among those too poor to afford heroin.

Roughly 60 percent of all illicit drugs confiscated in India are seized in Punjab.

Some political workers were actually giving away drugs to try to buy votes. Heroin, bootleg liquor

State government itself is dependent on revenue from alcohol sales. Roughly 8,000 government liquor stores operate in Punjab, charging a tax on every bottle — an excise that represents one of the government’s largest sources of revenue.

Dr. Manjit Singh Randhawa, the city of Amritsar’s civil surgeon

Ranvinder Singh Sandhu, a sociologist in Amritsar, surveyed 600 drug addicts in rural and urban areas of Punjab and found that they were usually young, poor and unemployed. An overwhelming majority of addicts are between the ages of 15 and 35, with many of them unemployed and frustrated by unmet expectations.

He said that most villages did not have health clinics but did have three or four drugstores, which often made sizable profits selling pills and other synthetic drugs to addicts who cannot afford heroin. Mr. Sandhu said he had completed his study six years ago, at the request of Punjab’s governor, yet had never been contacted by any state official about the findings.

Opium has a long history in Punjab, and was commonly and legally consumed here before India and Pakistan gained independence in 1947. Today, Punjab is a primary gateway for opiates smuggled into India from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Opium is also grown legally in India for medicinal purposes.

One impoverished neighborhood of Amritsar, called Maqboolpura, is known as the Village of Widows — because so many young men have died of drug abuse.

Orphaned children

Punjab risks losing a whole generation to drugs.

  1. NGO distributing clean syringes to addicts.
  2. Private drug treatment centers, some run by quacks, have proliferated
  3. Treatment wards in government hospitals have seen a surge in patients.
  4. Government camps
  • antidrug information
  • persuade addicts to undergo treatment

About Raghu Mahajan

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