The drug issue has taken centre stage in Punjab like never before. It has sharpened the political debate and also triggered a no-holds-barred war of words. A shrill blame game is raging between the Parkash Singh Badal government and Opposition; it has even pitch-forked the ruling alliance partners - the Shiromani Akali Dal and BJP - into a showdown mode.
Paradoxically, the Narendra Modi-led Centre has called for a "drug-free Punjab", while Akalis want a "drug-free India". Clearly, politics has taken over. Instead of displaying a collective will - and wisdom - to combat the narcotics challenge, the prime players of power politics are out to score only brownie points.
Such political chicanery conveniently glosses over an unprecedented crackdown by Punjab Police and surveillance by the Border Security Force that has busted a rash of well-entrenched drug mafias and disrupted a running pipeline of narcotics from Pakistan in the last one year or so. The humongous drug seizures and thousands of arrests are an undisputable testimony to their relentless tirade. The war against drugs is certainly far from over, but it's important to recognise the first round of battle that security agencies have won against drugs and drug lords.
A highly polarised and toxic political discourse, sans solutions, is obfuscating an issue as serious and significant as the drug menace that's corroding Punjab's legendry entrepreneurial spirit. After all, a society is as good as the quality of its human resource. So, at stake is the border state's present and future generations and also its very social fabric. We all know the malady; it's time to deliberate on the remedy and take multi-pronged, decisive correctives before it's too late. Doubtless, the fight against drugs is not a business of the government alone; it warrants every Punjabi to take up cudgels against an insidious enemy. Exaggeration, self-flagellation and finger-pointing are the last thing Punjab needs.
Lest the politicking and the showy made-for-media fireworks drown the core issue, Hindustan Times is taking the lead in starting a public debate focused on three questions that really matter: How grave is the drug problem in Punjab? What specific steps should the governments, both the state and the Centre, take to tackle it? What can the political parties and society do to deal with the drug scourge? Beginning today, HT will carry the voices of key stakeholders, experts and citizens.
It's time to speak up for Punjab.
Senior Resident Editor