Political parties may be holding protests, and the Punjab government may even be trying denial and shifting responsibility, but the reality of the drug menace comes out in songs. Move over ‘daaru’ (liquor) and ‘afeem’ (opium), Punjabi lyrics now even refer to ‘chitta’. Simple translation may say ‘chitta’ means ‘white’, but it’s actually a reference to the deadly white powder called heroin.
‘Border ni tapda chitta; munda Ludhiane udeek da’ has been written and sung by Veet Baljit, saying how a boy in Ludhiana is waiting for heroin to be smuggled across borders to reach him. It released in May 2014 and has only grown in popularity since.
Adding to a long tradition of songs romanticising intoxicants, recent songs about liquor include ‘Patiala peg’ by Diljit Dosanjh and those on ‘afeem’ by top singers such as Gippy Grewal, Jazzy B and Yo! Yo! Honey Singh.
Another favourite muse of these artistes is the modern woman, who is often a victim of misogynistic jibes. There have been protests by social organisations, but any official action is still absent. The problem is not limited to Punjabi songs, though it is indeed more prominent in these songs.
Reacting to media reports, the Punjab government had talked of a censor board four years ago. But nothing has come of that.
When contacted, state cultural affairs minister Sohan Singh Thandal remarked, “Shame on such singers who are negatively influencing the youth.”
Asked about any ways to control the menace, he claimed that he had already planned a meeting of the department to come up with a strategy.
“There are also plans to conduct meetings with various singers and music associations to discourage them from releasing such songs,” he added, “I will try to bring in a state-level censor board. I admit that efforts earlier could not produce such a board.”
As of now, the Central Board of Film Certification does not adequately cover songs.
“Songs instantly influence the youth. The government needs to wake up as these songs not only glorify drugs, alcohol and hooliganism, but actually lead to overall cultural pollution,” said Gurbhajan Singh Gill, noted writer and former president of the Punjabi Sahit Akademi.
But Swaranjeet Singh, a representative of the Young Writers’ Association (YWA) at Punjab Agricultural University, sought to put it in perspective, “These songs present the real picture of the drug menace; it’s a mirror. There should be a state-level censor board but I feel the governments must create employment and channel the youth’s energies. Social organisations have a significant role to play.”
On the other hand, HT contacted noted songwriter Happy Raikotia, who has penned lyrics for several hits, including ‘Afeem di dabbi’ for singer-actor Gippy Grewal’s movie ‘Jatt James Bond’. He was blunt: “We write as per the demand of the album or film; but, most importantly, as per the latest trend to attain instant fame. Those who write songs on drugs only paint the reality; it’s nothing out of the blue.”
Efforts to contact Veet Baljeet bore no fruit.