Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), part of Punjab’s ruling alliance, sought to yet again skirt responsibility and obliquely shift the blame to majority partner Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and even the police for the state’s drug menace, but got a stern reality check at a seminar here on Thursday.
BJP MPs Avinash Khanna and Vijay Sampla, and MLA Manoranjan Kalia reiterated the party’s argument of “collective responsibility of politicians, police, state administration, religious heads and common citizens”. Party leader Harjit Grewal, chairman of the Punjab Khadi Board, remarked, without taking names, “A large number of politicians themselves are drug addicts in Punjab.”
Grewal also condemned ‘halqa’ (assembly segment) in-charges, and asserted that there was “political patronage to drug suppliers”, getting applause from his party colleagues and others. Halqa in-charge is a system of the SAD, though the party was not expressly mentioned nor represented at the seminar, organised by the Joshi Foundation, an NGO run by BJP leader Vineet Joshi, assistant media adviser to the Punjab government.
Grewal further said, “Police officers and bureaucrats should also be told to make their ends meet only with their salaries!”
Sampla mentioned a “collective failure” in controlling drug supply in the state, as his party colleagues lauded him saying he did not misuse money or distribute liquor in the Lok Sabha poll that he won from Hoshiarpur.
However, Punjab State Information Commission member Surinder Awasthi said: “The party’s grassroots cadres are into supply of money and liquor during polls; that you (Sampla) may not be aware it, is another matter.”
Former DGP PC Dogra said the state police’s top brass was “totally dependent” on ruling politicians. Iqbal Singh Lalpura, a retired assistant inspector general of police, pointed out to an occasion when he was shifted from his post as SSP of Tarn Taran after he had seized a huge quantum of drugs. “Mr Dogra, I got a call from you that I’m not wanted by the politicians in Tarn Taran!” Lalpura said to the ex-DGP, who gave a smiling nod.
Columnist Devinder Sharma said developed nations like the UK had started considering money of illegal drug trade in their GDP (gross domestic product).
Umendra Dutt of NGO Kheti Virasat Mission and Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Balbir Singh Rajewal also expressed concern over political patronage of the drug trade.