Multi-pronged strategy is a must to curb drug menace
Punjab falls on one the main routes of drug smuggling from Afghanistan, into Pakistan and then in to India on way to Delhi and other destinations, including those abroad. There are big time drug lords and smugglers, most of who are said to have “protection”. During the days of terrorism, smuggling of narcotics shot up because of higher margins. This was the phase of narco terrorism. During this phase narcotics were mainly passing through Punjab, with hardly any consumption thereof, in Punjab. The money generated by smuggling was used by the militants for the purchase of arms and ammunition. Now on account of the changed scenario, narcotics smugglers are not only “routing” but also selling drugs in Punjab to make a quick buck. These drug smugglers, with the help of couriers and peddlers, have succeeded to a shocking extent in dragging our youth into drug addiction and a very large percentage of youth are consuming various narcotics and psychotropic drugs as also poppy husk and opium, which freely comes in from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Punjab is heavily into drug addiction. According to a report on the net, about 70% of our youth are into drug addiction and about 66% of school going children has also used drugs at one point of time or the other.
Though several drug de-addiction centers are running in Punjab, but the truly scientific ones are only in the Kapurthala & Bhatinda civil hospitals. Methadone treatment programme is going on here with the help of UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime). The UNODC had opened these centers after a detailed nationwide study. In all seven centers were opened all over the country & two of them are in Punjab. This shows the shocking state of affairs in Punjab. Another scientific, but a make shift, de-addiction centre is going on in the Kapurthala jail where Buprenorphine is being used. This make shift centre has de-addicted about 250 inmates but still it has about 300 fresh inmates who are being treated. But the question is how many of them will remain de-addicted, because the drugs remain freely available in the open society where they have to go back ultimately.
A serious & sustained crackdown is required on the drug smugglers closely followed by the de-addiction programme. Dedicated de-addiction centers are required in all the districts of Punjab along with counselors & psychiatrists. This menace can be controlled only through a multi pronged strategy involving Police, Health, Social Welfare and the Sports departments and proper co ordination thereof. The Police to launch an overall offensive against the drug smugglers & peddlers, registration of cases & their legal follow up, including conviction and attachment of their properties. They are, however, unable to do it because of their heavy charter of duties which includes maintaining law & order, prevention & detection of crime, security duties etc. The Health department needs to have a comprehensive policy with regard to de-addiction & the same is true about the Social Welfare and the Department of Sports and Youth affairs.
Punjab needs to have a statutory ANTI NARCOTICS COMMISSION, to be headed by some truly dedicated individual who has a good exposure to all these issues with D.G.P. and Principal Secretaries of the concerned departments; Health, Social Welfare and Sports & Youth Affairs, as ex officio co-chairpersons. This Commission should have a very limited sway over the S.S.Ps., Civil Surgeons and district level officials of the Social Welfare and Department of Sports & Youth affairs. This very limited role, however, should remain confined to monitoring anti drug operations (Police department), monitoring de-addiction programmes in all the districts with the help of NACO and possibly the UNODC (Health department), ensuring counseling and moral support to the drug addicts (Social Welfare Department) and promoting sports and organizing games amongst youth, particularly drug addicts and former addicts (Department of Sports and Youth Affairs).
Lastly, the Chairperson and the members of this required Anti Narcotics Commission should be given adequate official status, good official backup as also good security. The experience has shown that whosoever raises a voice against the drug smugglers, does it at his own & his family’s security risk. The proposed commission should report to the committee set up by The Hon’ble Punjab & Haryana High Court. The Chief Minister of Punjab as also the Deputy Chief Minister have already sounded the bugle against the drugs & if any such commission sees the light of the day, it can do wonders in this field & accomplish their vision.