Even as the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) launches the nation’s war on drugs from Punjab, demanding a complete ban on the cultivation of opium in the country among other things, here is something it missed.
The Indian government had in March 2012 banned the extraction of “doda post” (lanced poppy husk or LPH) from poppy plants as well as its sale. From April 1, 2015, no state can sell poppy husk through its permitted counters. Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal have been crying hoarse that the Centre is “allowing Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh to cultivate poppy and sell its by-products off the shelf”.
The CM has also shot letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Rajnath Singh, seeking a ban on the LPH in Rajasthan that borders Punjab. “The Centre cannot have two sets of rules for states. Poppy cultivation and sale is allowed in some states, while the others bear the brunt of it,” the CM had said even during the party’s Shaheedi Jor Mela convention in Fatehgarh Sahib on Saturday. The national policy on narcotics and psychotropic substances that the-then UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government had announced in March 2012 had laid down the procedure for gradual phasing out of the poppy-husk-and-straw trade through state-authorised shops. The deadline was March 31, 2015.
Rajasthan excise commissioner OP Yadav has confirmed over telephone that the 256 counters from where the LPH is sold in the state will be shut after the deadline.
“The cultivation of opium is allowed and regulated by the Indian government, which also notifies the tracts where it can be licensed in these three states. The state governments have nothing to do with it,” he said.
“The opium is then harvested and pumped into pharmaceutical industry. This also is controlled and regulated by the centre. The state government is only allowed to harvest the crop’s waste products such as straw and the LPH, and sell it to registered addicts through counters for which we issue permit or licence under Section 10 of the NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act,” explained Yadav.
He added that the 2012 policy envisaged the gradual closure of these counters by 2015. “While the cultivation of opium for medicinal purposes will continue in the three states, the governments of these states will not be allowed to use the waste products anymore. The ‘doda post’ shops in Rajasthan, including those on the border with Punjab, will be shut,” he said.
The Rajasthan excise commissioner said the state had written to the Centre to seek more time to shut these shops, “to be able to de-addict all the people hooked to the LPH”.
“But we have no communication, so far, from the Centre about deadline extension,” said Yadav.
Gearing up for the ban, the Rajasthan government has even launched “Naya Savera”, a campaign to de-addict the LPH users to avoid a law and order problem after March 31.