Drug politics of Punjab

  • Khushwant Singh, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Apr 06, 2015 13:13 IST

The Punjab government unleashed an advertisement blitzkrieg recently, urging all and sundry to stop tarnishing the image of Punjabis as drug addicts, because Punjab has nothing to do with drugs. Punjab, as per the spirit of the campaign, is not a producer of drugs, the supply of which comes from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the bordering state of Rajasthan, where opium is legal. In other words, Punjab is a land of milk and honey, and not of drugs, as is being projected.

Kudos to the brain behind this advertisement campaign that has, in a single sweep, washed away Punjab’s drug blues. It has made drugs sound like an alien word to Punjab, just like sarson da saag is to Italy.

Admit there’s a problem

Not only this, the advertisement has in one stroke also tried to make Punjabis look like fools, a very difficult task indeed. Because, try telling a Punjabi that he is a fool, a buck is what one gets, precisely the reason why this advertisement has become a laughing stock.

However, uneducated, or boozed (excise figures show Punjabis drink) a Punjabi may seem, he is fully aware that there is a drug problem (heroin, bhukki, synthetic and psychotropic), even though the authorities refuse to acknowledge it. The average Punjabi is worried about its young stock, even as our leaders try to make political capital out of it, depending which stand suits them. They have done it before, they are doing it again and will do it in the future too. Period.

Politics over drugs

If the BJP is holding its anti-drug rally in Amritsar, don’t conclude yet that it’s sincere and out to help the youth of Punjab. It’s simply trying to distance itself from the alliance’s failure to tackle the problem, and running away from responsibility as a partner. Politics over commitment to the people. The Shiromani Akali Dal, which is the bigger partner in the alliance, sadly seems to be washing its hands of the problem. For politics, you just cannot shift the blame onto aliens and shut your eyes to the problem. Their claim that no problem such as drug addiction exists is nauseating.

And what to say about the Congress. To me it appears that it is hardly interested in addressing the issue, since it suits the Congress to have some handle in the next elections. In other words no one is interested in solving the problem, except the politics of it.

Attitudinal change needed

Punjab will do well if it accepts the problem, because then only will it look for a solution. The government should stand tall and acknowledge that, Punjab is going through a crisis and we will do our best to steer it out of this. How much does it take to think like this?

In fact, their ad campaign should pivot around the lines: Be a proud Punjabi, shun drugs because Punjab needs you. Instead of wasting lakhs on a campaign that is nothing more than politics, the government should try to reach out to every Punjabi and bring about an attitudinal change in them.

Faced with a huge problem of smoking among the youth, the Australian government had invested massively in a campaign to turn around the paradigm that smoking was no longer cool but sports was. It was a sincere effort and yielded positive results as the youth started investing time and energy to fitness. Imagine if Australia were to deny that a problem existed and not take the challenge head on.

Punjabi By Nature requests the leaders of the state to shed politics for once and be bold, imaginative and sincere to save Punjab. Did someone say that other than drugs, the politician has been the bane of Punjab? khushwant.ahluwalia@gmail.com

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