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HT Spotlight: Dark side of chitta, in words of victims

The easy analysis is that unemployment is at the root of rising drug abuse in Punjab. That’s more of perception, in fact. Opulence coupled with easy availability is equally behind this juggernaut.

punjab Updated: Jun 17, 2016 11:44 IST
Pawan Sharma
From getting hooked to drugs ‘just for fun’ to taking refuge in these to get over a ‘shock’. there are varied tales to tell about addiction among Punjabi youth.
From getting hooked to drugs ‘just for fun’ to taking refuge in these to get over a ‘shock’. there are varied tales to tell about addiction among Punjabi youth.(HT File Photo)

The easy analysis is that unemployment is at the root of rising drug abuse in Punjab. That’s more of perception, in fact. Opulence coupled with easy availability is equally behind this juggernaut. And the lack of an effective de-addiction drive is deflating the anti-drug drive. From sweeping out drugs as part of a clean-up, the Parkash Singh Badal-led SAD-BJP government has shifted policy and is seeking to brush the issue under the carpet. Opposition parties see in drugs a sure-shot recipe to checkmate the ruling combine in assembly elections due early next year. Who suffers in the end? PAWAN SHARMA meets young men, hooked to drugs, who want to escape its clutches.

‘In Class 8, seniors told me to try it, and I did’

Akashdeep Singh, 20, school dropout, Mehmudpur village, Batala; landowner

I had barely begun walking when my father died, my mother told me. He was a sarpanch and a thekedar (contractor), and left behind enough money for the four of us — my mother, two sisters and I. As a student I was bright, at the government school at Balpurian in Batala. When I was in Class 8, I left school a few months after I was introduced to chitta (smack/heroin/mixture). “It was raining that day. Three Class-9 students of my school from Jandiala village persuaded me to taste once... I had seen them using it... I gave in. Within two months I began injecting heroin. My friends taught me how to. Initially, friends provided the daily fix; the cost was Rs 700 per dose, which now costs Rs 4,200 per five grams. I got into the taxi trade but spent every penny on heroin. When samaan (‘stuff ’ or heroin) was not available for two years due to police strictness, prices went up. Now, it’s easily available. I underwent a de-addiction course four times without much success. A fortnight ago I sold my new Indica for Rs 15,000 as I desperately needed money. I am slipping inside this daldal (quagmire); slowly, I will slip out of this world as yet another heroin addict.

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‘It was difficult to get the stuff for while, but now the supply is open!’

Baljeet Singh, 26, studied till Class 10, Manayala village, near Gurdaspur; farmer

It has been five years since I began using heroin. I have seven acres of land and my younger brother is settled abroad; he supports the family. When I turned 20, my father died and shortly after that I was married. My wife turned out to be mentally deranged. We had been deceived. That destabilised me. Legally, I got separated. But I began mingling with other amlis (addicts) of my village due to the shock. In between, I got married to a beautiful girl. I have two sons. But even before the second marriage I had got hooked to heroin. Most addicts here get it from Buta village near Subhanpur. Khand ni milugi per chitta jaroor miluga othey (You may not get sugar but will certainly get drugs there). When I started, the price was Rs 1,000 per gram. Now, the rate is Rs 2,400 per gram. It’s a fixed rate in Buta. It became difficult to get the stuff for while, but now the supply is open! My daily fix has been minimum one gram. Pure heroin is not available. Otherwise, one gram can kill a person! Despite this deadly disease, my mother and wife cooperated with me and I in turn kept working in my fields. I have tractors and I plough land of others also to make more money. I have spent Rs 30 lakh on heroin so far. You can identify me in the newspaper. I will be happy if my plight saves some youth. We are 15-20 heroin users in my village. Many have died. Every addict wants to get out of it; but how? Supply should be stopped.

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‘Every house in that village sells heroin; police know it’

Varun, 28, studied till Class 12, Gurdaspur, runs shoe shop

I hear politicians making noises that unemployed youth are into drugs. But anybody in a weak moment can get into this dark world. How will a penniless person buy drugs; that too heroin? Rs 3,000 a gram! I started five years ago, ‘just for fun’... My friends were into it. But the death of an addict in front of me on June 12 has shaken me... I with two friends had gone to Channi Beli village, 10km from Pathankot in Himachal. It has about 30 houses and every house of Channi Beli sells heroin. Police know it. While the three of us bought one gram in all, another youth who had come alone bought one gram from the same peddler. We sat at a lonely place and began taking our daily fix. That man who was alone suddenly collapsed. He was dead. Two of my friends also fainted. I was terrified. I thought I would die too. I shook my friends, rubbed their feet. They began regaining consciousness. And I heaved a sigh of relief. Immediately, we fled. But that man was dead. Perhaps, the quality of heroin that we bought was too high. One gram of pure dose can kill. Three of us had divided one gram in three parts. That saved us. That very moment I decided to rush to a de-addiction centre before this poison kills me. But where are the good centres?

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‘I left home, am absent from army job for 3 yrs...all for Bhukki’

35, absentee from army, Naushera Bahadur, Tibri Cantt, Gurdaspur

I got into the army in 1999. Once I was even a special security guard of Major General HS Hooda (now a Lt General and army commander of Northern Command). My first posting was in Kashmir where people grow poppy. During searches, soldiers take away poppy pods. Back in the barracks, we would grind the pods to make poppy husk. It would keep tiredness at bay. By the time I realised I was addicted, it was too late. In 2003, my unit was shifted to Mamoon cantonment in Punjab’s Pathankot. I began procuring poppy husk from Channi Beli village, 10km from Pathankot, in Himachal Pradesh. Then my unit was sent to Mumbai, where I did not get my dose. I came home feigning a family emergency. My wife sensed I was hiding something. She found that I had taken a week’s leave, while I had told her that I was on a very long leave. She informed the army authorities. I ran away, and have been absconding from the army for three years now. I had been in Madhya Pradesh, where bhukki is legally available. I drove trucks between MP and Karnataka. I snapped all connections with my parents, wife, daughter (14), son (8)... All for bhukki! Two months ago, my wife managed to contact me. She threatened to commit suicide along with the children. Fortunately, when she called I was not ‘high’. I came back and went straight to a de-addiction centre.

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