Assam could have become another ‘Udta Punjab’: Himanta Sarma on drugs menace
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Wednesday that the state was on its way to becoming like Punjab, where thousands had fallen victim to trade of illicit drugs.
Replying to a question by Asom Gana Parishad MLA Prodip Hazarika during zero hour of the ongoing budget session of the assembly, the CM cited the example of a popular Hindi movie to stress the point.
“We had seen a movie called ‘Udta Punjab’ where we got a glimpse of the situation in that state due to the menace of drugs. The rate at which illicit drugs were being traded in our state we were going towards becoming Udta Assam,” Sarma said.
Reacting to the accusations of state police becoming trigger-happy, the CM said tough action against criminals who try to escape from custody or attack policemen will continue till he was in charge.
The CM said that though Assam was earlier a transit route for drugs originating from other parts of the northeast and areas bordering a neighbouring country to other parts of India, the situation has changed in recent years with the use of the contraband increasing in the state.
“Accounts of recovered drug addicts have revealed that the contraband is easily available in prisons, hospitals and is even delivered at home through a network. This continued even during the [Covid-19] lockdown. It made us decide to take action,” said Sarma.
Though, police had been acting against drug trafficking in past, it intensified after the new government took office in May this year. In 2016, 10 kg of heroin was recovered, 5 kg in 2017, 7 kg in 2018, 23 kg in 2019 and 27 kg in 2020.
“This shows that availability of drugs is increasing since police are able to seize only around 10% of the illicit commodity. After I took charge, Union home minister Amit Shah asked me to take action against drugs, human trafficking and cattle smuggling. We then decided to adopt a policy of zero-tolerance on these issues,” the CM said.
In the past two months, 1,021 cases have been registered and 1,897 persons arrested for involvement in trafficking of illegal drugs. During the same period, over 27 kg of heroin, 12,823 kg marijuana, 41 kg opium, 78,000 bottles of cough syrup, over 1.3 million psychotropic tablets called Yaba, 3 kg morphine, 3 kg crystal methamphetamine, 33 kg poppy straw and ₹1.80 crore in cash were seized.
Sarma said that the seized drugs would be publicly burnt at four locations on July 17 and July 18 to send a message of zero-tolerance against drugs. He said all states in the northeast are working in a coordinated manner against illicit drugs.
The CM said that drugs were being used by criminals as payment to smuggle arms, fake currency and other contraband. He said the menace was also responsible for a lot of social problems and crimes.
Without taking names, the CM said several terror outfits of the region were involved in use and trade of illegal drugs. He, however, added that the banned United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) had no role in it.
“When such a massive operation is underway, some people will try to divert attention and even blame the police by calling it trigger happy,” he said while reacting to accusations by opposition parties and human rights activists.
Sarma cited instance of an alleged drug kingpin, who was arrested in a kidnapping case, killed in police firing while trying to escape from custody after arrest. He informed that since his government assumed office, seven alleged drug traffickers have been injured in firing while trying to escape from custody.
“Police action will continue on anyone who tries to escape from custody or attempts to attack policemen. I am not going to compromise on it. If criminals attack policemen, they have to shoot in self-defense,” he said.
A complaint has been filed in National Human Rights Commission by a Delhi-based lawyer Arif Jwadder accusing Assam police of targeting criminals in fake encounters. The Assam Humam Rights Commission has also issued notice to the police on shootings and encounters.