Creating a record of sorts in the country, the Punjab Police have tested 1.12-lakh young men of the state for dope in the past nine days, as part of its ongoing recruitment drive for posts of police constable. The results have put the addictive-drug users at 1.36%, that is, 1,524 of the 1.12 lakh who underwent the test. Nearly 900 others have been found to be using non-addictive, performance-enhancing drugs.
Conducted by the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, Faridkot, the tests to detect five types of drugs were made mandatory for the selections by the state government. The recruitment drive for 6,000 male constables began on July 27 and will see almost 4.7-lakh youths below the age of 28 vying for the government job. Other than the dope test, the aspirants are undergoing the routine physical-ability trials.
The police recruitment dope test comes at a time when the Akali-led government is facing acute criticism over the issue of drug addiction in the Punjab. Politically, the results of these tests could end up either providing additional ammunition to the opposition or support the Akali stand that the drug issue has been blown out of proportion.
However, the initial results seem to be shattering the opposition’s rant on the extent of drug abuse in the state. The figures till date are nowhere near the oft-repeated statement that “70% Punjab youth are drug addicts”. Leaders of the Congress as well as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have been contending that the state’s youth is in the vicious grip of state-sponsored narco chains. The SAD has, however, held that the opposition is defaming Punjabis for petty political gains and the problem in Punjab is comparable to, or even lower than, some states in India.
Other than the Punjab Police recruitment drive, the figures from the ongoing army recruitment camps in the state complement the government claim. Since August 1, the army has tested nearly 8,000 men for dope and found only 9 of them positive.
Brigadier JS Samyal, deputy director general (recruitment), Punjab and J&K zone, said it was mere “media hype” that Punjabi youths indulge in drugs. “In my personal experience, I have noticed the problem is not as much as it is being projected in the media,” he said.
The sample size of the police recruitment dope tests has researchers excited. “From a research point of view, this kind of sample is not available with any state in the country. By the end of the recruitment process, we will have data of almost 4 lakh men, the age group, districts where the numbers are highest, and the kind of drugs being consumed. If the Punjab Police permit us to use the data, we can conduct a seminal work on the problem of drug addiction in the state,” said Dr Arvind Sharma, professor and head, department of psychiatry, BFUHS, Faridkot.
The dope test sample is not just unprecedented in terms of the size, but has been culled out of the general population. The three studies done on the subject in the past 10 years have used a limited group of drug addicts as subjects and, based on the information gathered from them, tried to explain the multi-faceted problem of drug addiction in the state.
Five drug types tested: Number of candidates tested positive
o Opium-based drugs: 379
o Marijuana: 512
o Sleeping pills (benzodiazepine): 497
o Propoxyphene (pain relievers): 8
o More than one drug: 128
o Performance enhancers (amphetamine) 905