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Punjab leaders had voters on a drug high

The Election Commission’s seizure of drugs worth Rs 40 crore during the Punjab election season has drawn attention to the widespread use of drugs — ranging from intoxicating tablets and syrups to heroin and poppy seeds — to woo voters in the state.
By Chetan Chauhan | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 31, 2012 02:21 AM IST

Punjab politicians had voters on a drug high during the election campaign that lasted a fortnight.

The Election Commission’s seizure of drugs worth Rs 40 crore during the Punjab election season has drawn attention to the widespread use of drugs — ranging from intoxicating tablets and syrups to heroin and poppy seeds — to woo voters in the state.

“We believe that the drugs were for electoral purposes,” deputy election commissioner Alok Shukla has said.

An Election Commission (EC) official said that bribing a voter is not rampant in Punjab because of the state’s economic influence. However, drug addiction is a huge problem and intoxicants are often used to lure voters.

Over half the households once surveyed in the state by the youth affairs ministry had reported intensive drug abuse. The ministry had initiated a drug de-addiction programme in some districts but officials admit the problem is deep-rooted.

Its scale became evident when the police seized 37.54 kg of heroin worth Rs 37 crore in the international market. Close to 10 lakh tablets of intoxicants, 18,312 kg of drug powder and 4,300 bottles of cough syrup were also seized.

For the not-so-rich, there were huge quantities of country-made liquor and opium seeds. The police seized 7.18 lakh bottles of country-made liquor, 377 kg of smack and about 100 kg of the seeds.

The drug problem in Punjab can be understood in comparison with other states. For instance, black money to the tune of Rs 55 crore was seized during the election season in Tamil Nadu while liquor seized was worth only Rs 2 crore. On the other hand, the black money seized in Punjab was only to the tune of Rs 12 crore.

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