Whether the opposition parties have exaggerated the problem in Punjab or the government has made it worse by going easy on the suppliers, it is all a political blame game, and the winner is drug trade. What is killing the state? To some it is the connivance of its police with smugglers and to others it is the flashy lifestyle of its youth. Whether confronting other countries or penalising our own drug-growing states will solve it remains to be seen.
Sikander Singh Maluka, rural development and panchayat minister
Let all MLAs say no to alcohol
The drug problem has existed for hundreds of years and there have been many battles in the past to get rid of it. It is everywhere across the country; but in Punjab, the opposition parties have exaggerated it. Call it the mistake of the state police or their over enthusiasm but their publicising the huge market value of the seized drugs created an image of Punjab as the most-affected state. I can say with surety that the situation in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar is more serious; and even Himachal Pradesh is facing the issue of foreigners who come in just for drugs.
The battle against drugs is to be fought on many fronts together by the central and state governments. First, we have to bring the addicts out of this habit so that the declining demand puts pressure on the suppliers. Then we have to prevent drug smuggling at all levels and create mass awareness against the menace. To save the young generation, we have to reach out to them in schools and colleges, which was my top priority during my stint as education minister of the state.
Rather than being divided on the issue, all political parties should fight this scourge together. We have requested chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to convene an all-party meeting on the issue and we will make sure that they all are involved in this battle. To start with, all legislators, irrespective of their political affiliation, who drink should say no to liquor. Social and religious organisations should propagate the idea of alcohol-free family functions and weddings.
Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, former chief minister
Let police work freely
It has become very grave in the past seven to eight years. It is because of many factors from negligence to political patronage. The move of Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah to launch an anti-drug campaign in Punjab smacks of politics. The menace has become this grave during the rule of the Akali-BJP regime and it has now come to haunt them.
The Centre has to do its bit sincerely and not do politics over the issue. As for the state, the jathedars are running its 'thanas' (police stations). This political interference has to stop. The police, when given a free hand, eradicated terrorism from Punjab. Let them work freely again to weed out drugs.
Like the fight against dowry, society should join the war on drugs as well. From the youth and parents to social groups and political parties, everyone's contribution is required. As an opposition party, we are playing our role. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was the first to flag the gravity of the issue; but to end the menace, all political parties will have to work together with complete sincerity.
Harvinder Singh Phoolka, Aam Aadmi Party leader
Train an army of counsellors
UNODC (United Nations Offices for Drugs and Crimes) puts Punjab on top in the Indian list of states with maximum affected people. On International Day Against Drug Abuse on June 25, 2014, I was one of the panelists for discussion organised by UNODC, and the focus was on Punjab. Different studies give us different percentage of population addicted to drugs and alcohol but almost each has a figure of more than 50 for Punjab.
I see no serious plan by the state or the Centre to tackle this problem. The supply and demand both have to be checked. The government-run de-addiction centers are almost defunct, without permanent doctor, or locked. You go to any village, the people will tell you openly who sells drugs and under the patronage of which leader. Even a child in the village knows.
The Aam Aadmi Party has been holding counselling camps for the addicts. Starting from Chhapaar Mela in Ludhiana, it plans to expand the scale of this campaign. We are training our workers to be good counsellors to addicts, their parents and friends. Schoolteachers can keep the students away from drugs by educating them against the harms.
Bibi Jagir Kaur, former SGPC chief
Raise issue with Pak, Afghanistan
The drug menace has taken the youth of Punjab like an epidemic and is gnawing the very foundation of the state. One should not see Punjab as an isolated case, since the drugs are coming in from Afghanistan and Pakistan. In that case, these must be going into the other states as well where the demand is high. The problem should not be seen as state-specific but a nuisance for the entire country.
The drug menace is out of control because the countering agencies do not work in coordination. If the state police seize a large consignment of drugs, then just for political mileage, people start criticising them. The Centre and the state should work together to check the international and domestic smuggling of drugs. There is a need to raise the issue with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal at international meets and penalise states that cultivate drugs.
Geographically, Punjab is at a disadvantage, so one should not point fingers at it but think responsibly how to fight what is a menace of all states. This ancient land of saints and scholars need to reveal its glorious history and values to the youth so that they see what they are losing.
Both the civil society and the political parties should fight this social evil and not each other.
Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal, environmentalist
Cops alert mafia, embolden it
Heroin, opium and synthetic drugs are available freely, so the youth are easy prey. At Latianwal and Toti villages of Sultanpur Lodhi, drugs are sold without any fear of the law, which shows the extent of the menace. The youth from other places visit these villages to get their supply of drugs. Even the police are aware of the fact but they take no action, which proves that drug trade is flourishing in the state in connivance with the regulatory bodies.
What has the government done till date? The authorities are aware of the drug trade but they turn a blind eye towards it, as money from the cartel also goes into their pockets. If people approach the police with complaints against the smugglers, the cops alert the mafia. If the government wants to do something, it should just do its duty to the Constitution responsibly.
Parents should raise their children well and keep tabs on their whereabouts to save them from falling prey to drugs. Politicians should work towards eradicating the problem instead of making false promises. Members of civil society should not elect a party that buys its votes with alcohol and drug. Rather, society should boycott that political party.
Gurpreet Ghuggi, actor
Flashy lifestyle killing our youth
People say the drug problem in Punjab is just alarming but I say that it has taken deep roots. It is not just unemployment that has made the youth addicted; it is also their unending desires that have led them astray. Wadde kam di aukat nahi, chotte kam karne nahi (too small for big work, and too big for small jobs).
To eradicate the drug menace from Punjab, the state government should involve the volunteer organisations and back them financially. The other day I was reading a study by a Hyderabad NGO that 75% of the youth in Punjab were drug addicts. If the government hires selfless NGOs, it can take charge of the situation. With good backing, the volunteers with zeal can bring this 75% to 7.5% in two years.
Catching four or five drug peddlers in Punjab won't solve the problem. The plague will be eradicated only by a mass campaign. The success stories of the reformed addicts could inspire the new generation; the government only needs to recognise them. The youngsters who have kicked the habit of drugs can help counsel and reform other drug addicts. The love for flashy lifestyle is killing our youth.
Compiled by Sachin Sharma, Sukhdeep Kaur, Anshu Seth, Nitindra Bandopadhyaya, Parampreet Narula and Usmeet Kaur
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