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HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
Patiala, October 14, 2012
Furthering the political rhetoric over drug abuse in Punjab, Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu on Sunday challenged Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal to get a drug use survey conducted in his native village Badal: "He will find out that more than 70% youth are hooked to drugs. If that's not true, I will quit politics."


He also demanded an apology from Sukhbir for "trying to belittle this grave issue facing the future of Punjab and doing little all these years to save the youth". Bittu defended his party's general secretary Rahul Gandhi, whose remark that 70% of Punjab's youth are into drugs kicked off the political war of words: "He (Rahul) only underlined the problem which needs urgent attention."

"Even as most of Punjab's hinterland is hooked to drugs, Sukhbir Badal is ignoring -- rather laughing at -- the severity of the issue," said Bittu, a former state Youth Congress president, comparing the drug abuse problem to the militancy era. "Under this ruling SAD-BJP combine, even the jails of the state have become havens for drug peddlers and addicts."

On Sukhbir's contention that Punjab could not be blamed for a spike in heroin flow as central agency BSF had failed to check smuggling from Pakistan, Bittu said if heroin was the Centre's responsibility, "what's stopping the Punjab government from tackling the problem of synthetic drugs?"

He said ideally there should be one chemist shop for population of 5,000, but the Punjab government was not checking the "rapid mushrooming" of chemist shops selling synthetic drugs illegally, without prescription in far-flung villages.

Bittu said if the problem was not serious according to the state government, he wondered why the chief minister recently asked deputy commissioners to set up drug rehabilitation centres.