While the controversy over Bollywood movie ‘Udta Punjab’ keeps the political pot boiling in Punjab, even the union government had admitted in the Rajya Sabha that drug addiction was affecting the youth of Punjab.
Ironically, the admission came in replies of Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju to questions from two Rajya Sabha MPs, Ranjib Biswal from Orissa and Mahendra Singh Mahra from Uttarakhand, and not from the 20 MPs from Punjab in both Houses.
In his reply to an unstarred question (of Biswal dated May 4, 2016) whether Punjab Police and Border Security Force (BSF) personnel were found working in collusion with trans-border drug smuggling network, Rijiju denied organised collusion but listed 55 cases and 68 arrests of employees of Punjab Police, state jail department, Punjab home guards, BSF, railway protection force and Chandigarh Police.
Of these 68, 53 were from Punjab Police, including 24 in 2014, 26 in 2015 and 4 till March 31, 2016.
While Punjab cops top the list, seven employees of the state jail department were arrested during these years for involvement in drug trade, followed by four from BSF, two from Punjab home guards and one from Chandigarh Police. In reply to a query of MP Mahendra Mahra (dated March 9, 2016) whether the Union government was aware of that youth of Punjab were reeling under drug menace, Rijiju said, “Yes sir. Drug addiction is affecting the youth in Punjab and the ministry of social Justice and empowerment has conducted a rapid survey along with AIIMS to estimate the extent and pattern of drug abuse and is taking steps to restrict supply of drugs from across the border”.
Since the replies were to unstarred questions in the Rajya Sabha, they did not make headlines. But Punjab Congress chief spokesman Sunil Jakhar claims it busts the claims of both Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and Badal government who are claiming that the producers of Udta Punjab were defaming Punjab. “Even the Union government has admitted that Punjab’s youth are addicted to drugs,” he adds.
The AIIMS survey on Punjab Opioid Dependence Survey (PODS), commissioned by the Centre and conducted in February-April 2015 had pegged opioid-drug dependents (addicts) in Punjab at 2.32 lakh, which translates to 0.84% of the state’s total population. However, a flip side to the story is that cops are using the NDPSAct to indict fellow policemen. A Patiala court had last week asked the Punjab Police to initiate departmental inquiry against an an Assistant Sub-Inspector and acquitted a policeman and his associate of all charges terming it as a false case wherein the ASI was himself the complainant in the case and had shown that he had arrested the accused on a tip-off from sources.