With drug addiction among Punjab youths becoming a hot election topic, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley is not mincing words on the issue in the course of his campaign for the Amritsar seat though his political partners, especially some senior Akali leaders, are accused of encouraging the illicit trade.
As Jaitley put it in his blog on Friday, "Yesterday, I was addressing a public meeting at Rajasansi. The loudest cheer was reserved for a comment made against the drug addiction in the state. Enthusiastic applause came from that section of the audiences where a large number of women were seated. This explains it all."
Jaitley's stand is that drugs are not grown in Punjab. Narcotics are smuggled from across the border. Some indigenous drugs are cultivated in Rajasthan are also made available. "There is no solution to this problem except strictest of enforcement. All drug availability must be cut out at its very source. The borders have to be completely sealed to make it impossible for anyone to smuggle drugs in the state. Even in interstate travel from other states, strict enforcement has to be undertaken. This may involve harassment of some but that is unavoidable. Narcotic terrorism is the new form of insurgency. It should be dealt accordingly," he said.
In the areas bordering Pakistan, Jaitley acknowledged drug trafficking is rampant. "A large number of youngsters start with the thrill of experimentation and eventually become drug addicts. Wherever I travelled during campaigning, many people have expressed concern on the issue. Several families have been destroyed due to this problem. The potential of young men has been damaged. The social fabric of the society has suffered badly."
More importantly, Jaitley did not absolve the Central and state governments of blame. "Even though it is primarily the responsibility of every family to inculcate such values in the children that keep them away from the forbidden path, nonetheless, governments cannot abdicate their responsibility in this matter. Both Central and state governments have an onerous responsibility to discharge."
A tight vigil along the border which prevents availability of narcotics, he said, is the prime responsibility of the governments. "Strict and deterrent punishment for those who trade in and supply prohibited drugs is a state responsibility. The users have to be compassionately dealt with. Establishment of De-addiction Centres in affected areas, which are run by professionals and trained people is essential. The social and economic environment of the affected areas has to be radically improved."
Jaitley's suggestions to check the menance include create new avenues for gainful employment, create more institutes for technical education, seek robust broadband connectivity and penetration of Information Technology both for Amritsar and its surrounding rural hamlets and expedite the establishment of the proposed Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) centre in Amritsar.