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CM, ministers on medication, Capt Amarinder’s government skips the dope test

Minister Bajwa, who mooted the idea, failed to undergo dope test on Thursday even after going off neuro medicines. He says no option, but to take medication again.

punjab Updated: Jul 14, 2018 10:30 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Punjab news,capt Amarinder singh,punjab
Capt Amarinder Singh (HT File)

The Captain Amarinder Singh-led Punjab government’s fight against drug menace is becoming a case of one step forward, two backwards. Under fire from his cabinet colleagues and the opposition on ‘drug-tainted’ cops, the CM ordered dope test for all Punjab government employees, including the police. But neither the CM nor his confidant who mooted the idea, rural development minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, have been able to undergo the test themselves.

Amarinder had declared to take the test after Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislator Aman Arora’s dare. A defiant Punjab Civil Secretariat Staff Association too had asked the CM and his ministers to clear it first. But more than a week after his statement, the CM, who is on medication for diabetes and other ailments, is yet to undergo the test.

He would have to go off pills for a few days and can take one only if his doctors advice him to do so. Bajwa, too, could not take the test when he went to the Mohali civil hospital on Thursday the second time, this time after going off his neuro medicines.

“I called up the Mohali civil hospital before going for the dope test. But still no doctor was there. I waited for 45 minutes. I am on medication for some neurological problem and had stopped taking medicines and sleeping pills for over a week. Now, I have no option, but to take my medication again,” he told HT on Friday.

The CM had left it to the judgement of his cabinet colleagues if they wanted to undergo a test. Local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has refused. “How is taking dope test for those in government a solution for the drug problem? Somebody would have to convince me. No one has asked me to take the test nor do I intend to take one,” he said.

While Sidhu takes blood thinners, many ministers are on medication for hypertension. The medicine has opiod content. After the initial political grandstanding when ministers like OP Soni made the dope test a photo-op, no other minister has announced the feat. Congress’ Kartarpur MLA Surinder Chaudhary tested positive as ‘he is on anxiety pills’. Food and civil supplies minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu, who is on hypertension pills, says he would take one soon.

Political hot potato

The CM’s diktat has become a political hot potato. As per reports, the government may heed the advice of Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal to exempt women employees; even those on medication. A move which would be seen as bailing out the ruling class.

It will also open a Pandora’s Box as many employees, too, would be on some medication or the other. The exemption list could well turn out to be more than the ones who take the test, defeating its very purpose.

Leader of opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira questions if any doctor will disclose that a minister’s dope test results are positive. “There is a suspense element to such tests. It is not that you choose the time and date. This way, anyone who abstains can test negative and those on opiod-based medicines can test positive. The CM is now wanting to relax norms for those on medicines like him. The whole idea was a farce to deflect public debate from cop-dealer nexus. The government is now trying to find a face-saver,” adds the AAP leader.

Money matters

The cash-strapped government which is scraping the bottom of the barrel for meeting its farm debt waiver promise will have to reimburse Rs 1,500 per employee, per year. Finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal says his department will fund the tests and rehab of drug dependents, no matter what the cost. “Like the Congress regime of Beant Singh abolished terrorism from Punjab, the Amarinder government will eradicate the drug menace. We will also seek aid from NGOs and international agencies,” says Manpreet, who will take the test this weekend.

First Published: Jul 14, 2018 10:30 IST