Come clean: There are leaders who have faced constituents ruined by drugs and there are leaders said to be involved in the racket; there’s research that gives the severity figure and there’s politics that distorts it; a common path has to be found through divided opinion to take on the evil; not easy, but doable, say concerned voices.
Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, state education minister
Drug supply chain broken
There is no authentic data available on drug consumption in Punjab but I think its projected extent is exaggerated. It has become fashionable among politicians to talk about drug addiction in the state, almost as if speaking about it is the only responsibility they have.
The government is already doing a lot. The police have broken the drug supply chain and the government can now focus on generating awareness among the youth. Every drug addict should be able to get proper treatment. The government de-addiction centres will have to be persistent, since relapse in the treated patients is common.
Political parties should focus on the problem and try to find solutions. Instead everyone is only indulging in a fruitless blame game. We are all Punjabis and spreading misinformation will only bring a bad name to our own state.
This is one issue where the wellbeing of the victims should be talked first. Instead, the opposition is throwing muck.
Ravneet Singh Bittu, Congress MP, Ludhiana
Stop opening more drug stores
The much debated figure of 70% youth in Punjab being addicted is not false, as they are on either alcohol or hard drugs. It started with opium and poppy husk abuse in the 1970s and now the appreciation in land prices has turned neo-rich rural youth to heroin and cocaine.
Having taken out a yatra in Punjab against the menace, I realised that until every village is under surveillance, it isimpossible to cut drug supply. First we have to stop opening more drug stores. The area police should be held accountablewherever the drug racket thrives and the politicians involved should be exposed.
The Punjab government should call an all-party meeting to address the issue of drugs. The drug prevention board formed in 2014 comprises overburdened bureaucrats mostly instead of conscientious legislators,motivational workers, and police officers. Members of panchayats should be trained to deal with the problem in villages.
Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu, chief parliamentary secy
Govt knows about leaders involved
I get feedback that drugs are available easily in small localities. I visit wards in my constituency for almost four hours each day; and there I hear stories from people about how drugs have ruined their families and lives. The easy availability of drugs has made things worse in Punjab.
Even the state knows who are the politicians involved in this. Even top cops wait for a telephone call from leaders to act. We should examine the assets of police officials as well as politicians. As far as Centre is concerned, it must ensure that after the Border Security Force seizes any drug shipment, the case goes to a central agency and not the police.
Political parties must come clean on this issue, and stop pressurising the police. The director general of police should put his foot down and also ensure that cops don’t play into the hands of politicians. As far as society is concerned, the volunteer organisations need to work aggressively and parents need to keep a close eye on their children.
Sucha Singh Gill, CRRID director general
Control serving of liquor at weddings
No systematic study at the Punjab level is available, yet rough estimates indicate that a high proportion of its young men are addicted. The recent data from National Health and Family Survey indicate that more than 34% adult men take liquor casually or regularly.
The state as well as the union government should check the illegal circulation of drugs and go after the smugglers and distributors. Educate people about the consequences. There also needs to be a campaign against alcohol abuse in the state. The serving of liquor at public functions such as weddings needs to be controlled.
A political consensus is required. The idea should be to eradicate this problem, not score point against the opponents. The political parties need to weed out their leaders who shelter drug smugglers and peddlers; and stop distributing drugs for buying votes. Reject the candidates who use drugs to lure voters. Social bodies must expose drug traders.
Pramod Kumar, chief, governance reforms panel
Make rehabilitation centres accessible
After three decades of using drugs to woo voters, the leaders now realise how serious it is. Politics over drugs has become more serious than the problem itself. If researchers show 70% of the addicts are youth, politics distorts it to say 70% of Punjab youth are on drugs.
Check heroin inflow from the golden crescent transit route; kill inter-state trade of opium, poppy husk, charas and ganja by crop eradication; and prevent misuse of prescription drugs by keeping tabs on chemists. Make drug detoxification and skill development rehabilitation centres accessible, take drug awareness to schools and colleges.
Political parties should stop using drugs to woo voters. The civic bodies and citizen committees should pass resolutions to boycott leaders that distribute drugs and alcohol in elections. The parties and social bodies should launch anti-drug drives and build partnerships with the parents and community leaders to mentor the youth.
Kewal Dhaliwal, theatre personality
Like terror, drugs also beatable
Punjab time and again has battled some colossal challenge and got up to be triumphant. Koi na koi maar payi hai ehnu (some or the other issue has always hit the state). First it was Partition in 1947, then terrorism in 1984, and today it is the drug menace, there for the past 10 years.
All the troubles in Punjab, be it Partition riots, terrorism or now drug menace, are first flared up by the government, so the government only can eradicate it. The biggest measure it can take is to introduce moral education. Involve the youth in nation building and give them degrees only if they have proved useful to society.
Ruling parties could introduce moral lessons in syllabi. If the state government could kill terrorism, it can eradicate the drug problem as well for a real progressive Punjab, where the youth are healthy. The state government should collaborate with society instead of protesting against the BSF, and catch drug peddlers it is aware of.
Complied by: Chitleen K Sethi, Anshu Seth, Aseem Bassi, Manpreet Randhawa and Usmeet Kaur
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