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Stop blame game, and find solutions

At a debate held recently on a news channel, Punjab's director general for school education (DGSE) Mr Kahan Singh Pannu, CM's media adviser Sh Harcharan Bains and I were in agreement on the serious effects of drugs and their flow into the state. Figures may vary, but the problem should be addressed more seriously. Ripjit Singh Brar writes

chandigarh Updated: Oct 18, 2012 13:34 IST
Ripjit Singh Brar

At a debate held recently on a news channel, Punjab's director general for school education (DGSE) Mr Kahan Singh Pannu, CM's media adviser Sh Harcharan Bains and I were in agreement on the serious effects of drugs and their flow into the state. Figures may vary, but the problem should be addressed more seriously.


I am saddened to read news items of the blame-game, and the real issue is on the backburner. No one has tried to suggest ways to tackle this grave issue. In fact, Sh Rahul Gandhi has done great service in awakening Punjab to the menace by citing a percentage figure already put across in the high court by the state government.

It is quite natural, and easy, to blame our neighbouring countries, but what has our government done to tackle the illegal availability of drugs in chemist stores across the state? There is a strong need to have the national policy on drugs re-examined and make it more stringent.

Recently in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, which had over 2 lakh licensed farmer growing poppy saw, an additional 48,557 farmers got licences. The governments do no wrong in getting the cultivation done as the derivatives are needed in the pharmaceutical units; but the procurement procedures are faulty.

The district opium officers are duty-bound to collect 58 kg of opium paste per hectare at Rs 800 per kg. In reality, the yield is much more than the stipulated procurement per hectare. This surplus is sold in the open market at Rs 50,000 per kg. After adulteration, this opium paste comes to the Punjab via the Sriganganagar/Hanumangarh border route.

There is also no policy on the poppy plant from which opium paste is taken. Farmers crush the plant along with empty opium buds, making the powder termed as poppy husk or bhukki, which is sold at Rs 1,500 per kg.

But the main reason behind the drug menace among youth is the socio-economic stagnation. After the onset of the Green Revolution in Punjab, landholdings started to decrease, which neutralised the gains. Respective governments could not provide jobs to the 45 lakh unemployed youth, and the militancy period also played a role in keeping out investment. Punjabi youth had only one option to make ends meet - of going abroad. But that too became difficult due to the economic slowdown in the West, and the youth was left frustrated. This led to a spike in crime, particularly kidnappings and rape cases. The once-vibrant Punjab now lies in a dazed stupor. The tall, handsome, muscular Punjabis are now a pale shadow of themselves.

Without blaming one another and asking for dope tests, politicians, the intelligentsia, experts, medical professionals and religious leaders should sit together and work out a strategy to save the future of Punjab.

(The writer, a Congress leader and former MLA, can be contacted at ripjitsinghbrar@yahoo.co.in)