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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

Cong wants addicts let off; Sukhbir promises no action without substance

Manpreet Randhawa, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, July 22, 2014
First Published: 23:34 IST(22/7/2014) | Last Updated: 08:57 IST(23/7/2014)

Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal assured the Vidhan Sabha on Tuesday that the state government would desist from framing anyone on the pretext of fighting the drug menace.

He said he had told the director general of police to deal with the rounded-up addicts leniently, if they were not involved in smuggling any substance. He was responding to a query from Congress legislator Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi during the question hour.

Sodhi sought a white paper from the state government on the action taken against the drug smugglers since January. Many other Congress legislators in the House also accused the police of registering false drug cases against many people. “The government should consider drug addiction not a crime but a health problem. The police are cracking down on drug users instead of the source and the suppliers,” said Sodhi.

The legislator demanded that the police should withdraw the first-information reports (FIRs) against addicts who required rehabilitation; and the speaker should form a House committee to monitor these cases. “There is a possibility that the ongoing police campaign against drugs leads to political vendetta, as the deputy CM and the DGP cannot keep tabs on every case,” he said.

Sukhbir said he understood the concern and that’s why he had asked the DGP to form a committee comprising the inspectors general of police (IGPs) from all zones. “They will ensure that no false case is registered. The police can take a lenient view, if the local MLA (member of the legislative assembly) certifies that anyone in question is not into drug trade,” said the deputy CM, adding that the government would rather help rehabilitate those addicts.

“Punjab has a law in place to take a lenient view in these cases,” said Sukhbir.

Responding to Sodhi’s stating that drugs were available freely also in the state’s jails, he said it was a matter of concern indeed. “I have also instructed the DGP (jails) to raid the prisons to catch hold of the inmates or officials who are smuggling drugs inside. In previous raids, the police have seized mobile phones and alcohol from the inmates,” Sukhbir accepted.

To Sodhi’s asking him how many police officials were involved in drug smuggling and what action had been taken against them, the deputy CM said the government had decided to dismiss several police personnel instead of handing them mere suspension order.

To Congress legislator Gurkirat Singh Kotli’s raising concern about the selling of restricted medicinal drugs over the counter, Sukhbir said it was also an area where the government would have to pay attention. “In 2000, Punjab Police seized 7,000 drug capsules. The number has gone up to 3 crore in 2013,” he observed.

Sukhbir cited a shortage of drug inspectors to monitor the chemist’s shops. “We are trying to recruit more of these officers and put them on deputation in the police department to help catch the erring pharmacists,” he added.

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