DCs say syringe ban stays as no orders from Punjab govt to revoke it yet

After some districts banned open sale of syringes through a July 6 order, health minister Brahm Mohindra distanced himself from it.

punjab Updated: Jul 11, 2018 14:48 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Syringe ban,Drugs menace,Punjab drugs
Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh

As the Captain Amarinder Singh-led Punjab government fights criticism over sudden spate in “drug overdose” deaths, it appears the left hand does not know what the right is doing.

After some deputy commissioners enforced a ban on sale of syringes without prescription through a July 6 order under section 144 of the CrPC in districts, health minister Brahm Mohindra distanced himself from it, saying that his department was not consulted. Doctors and other heath experts slammed the move, arguing that it would trigger a bigger epidemic if drug dependents started resorting to sharing syringes, which can increase risks of transmission of diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.

A top functionary of the CM office told reporters on Monday that DCs have been told to revoke the ban and chemists would be required to furnish details of stocks and sales. But the DCs whom HT spoke to on Tuesday evening said the ban stays.

An order dated July 6 issued by Bathinda district administration said, “Using the powers conferred to her under CrPc 1973 section 144, the additional district magistrate, Bathinda, Sakshi Sawhney has today imposed complete ban on sale of syringe without prescription slip of government or registered doctor. Imposed under Mission Tandarust Punjab, these orders are applicable till September 30, 2018. Those not abiding by the orders will be strictly dealt with.”

Bathinda DC Diparva Lakra, when contacted, said the law gives district magistrates (post held by DCs) special powers to issue prohibitory orders, and he has not revoked the ban. “I have not received any intimation from the government, verbal or written, to revoke it,” he said.

Mohali DC Gurpreet Kaur Sapra too said the ban stays. “We have not received any verbal or written order from the government to revoke it. In fact, we will try to make it more effective so that it serves the purpose,” she said.

Minister Mohindra said the issue was not discussed at a meeting of health officials with him and the CM on Tuesday. “But I am totally against the ban. It was a unilateral decision taken by the DCs. Under whose permission did they issue the ban? They could have at least consulted the health department,” Mohindra said, adding, “How can we ban sale of syringes when we are providing them for free under the National AIDS Control Programme? Do we want five addicts to use one syringe? It is like banning a glass to curb the problem of drinking.”

Additional chief secretary, health, Satish Chandra too said the blanket ban would not serve any purpose. “Diagnostic labs, clinics and hospitals or diabetic patients require syringes in large numbers. They can be sold without prescription. But the inventory and sales of chemists will have to be monitored. They would be required to maintain records of what they get, how much they sell and to whom, with complete contact details, including address,” Chandra said.

First Published: Jul 11, 2018 14:48 IST