Call it the year of drugs in Punjab. Nothing has dominated and impacted the border state’s political and social discourse in 2014 more profoundly than the drug menace. If one were to conduct an opinion poll in the state today to figure out what concern is topmost on the citizens’ mind, the answer will unfailingly be: drugs. This is one major issue that inarguably swung this year’s Lok Sabha polls in Punjab, set the alarm bells ringing for the Badal government and prompted an unprecedented police crackdown against drug addicts and peddlers.
Hardly a day passes without arrests and seizures being made across the state and along its 553-km boundary with Pakistan. The sheer staggering quantity and cocktail of narcotic recoveries so far can earn Punjab the dubious distinction of being the country’s drug capital. But, the critical – and contentious – question is: how widespread is the domestic drug abuse?
Doomsayers say the drug devil has consumed an entire generation of Punjabi youth; others dismiss it as a hyperbole inferred as much from massive seizures as from hearsay and stray anecdotal evidence. In the absence of any serious and credible pan-Punjab empirical research, the real extent of drug abuse prevalence remains anybody’s guess. What has muddied the waters is a piping-hot political war on the issue that has lately rocked the ruling SAD-BJP alliance and could well be a tipping point in their likely divorce. In this special package, Hindustan Times takes a 360-degree look at Punjab’s relentless war against drugs and drug lords in the past year.