'Drug abuse in Punjab "very serious" problem'
Terming the prevailing trans-border drug smuggling and abuse in Punjab as a "very serious" problem, the director general of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Rajiv Mehta on Tuesday said that India and Pakistan were jointly working on strategies to effectively check the menace.
It is notable to mention here that Punjab came to media limelight last year when then AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi, during his visit to the border state, made a statement that 70% Punjabi youths are addicted to drugs.
Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had countered blamed the central government for failure to properly guard the India-Pakistan border in Punjab, thus, resultantly making the state emerge as main transit route as well as a hub for drugs smuggling. Badal had also tried to downplay the grave situation of drug abuse while accusing the Congress of misleading the public.
But the NCB, India's apex agency to check drug menace, did not agree on the issue with the Punjab government.
"Punjab is a very very serious problem as far as drug smuggling from across the border and its abuse in the state is concerned. We have recently upgraded our official capacities in Punjab by deploying senior officers for coordination purposes. Keeping in view the inputs from various quarters, we are also under process to hold a joint meeting of various agencies in Punjab next month," said Mehta, adding that the state was regularly being monitored and stringent efforts were being made in this regard.
Mehta was among the panelists during a programme organised by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) here to release International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) 2012 report. "The people of Punjab need to come forward to solve the grave problem of drug abuse by educating the youth about impact of drug abuse. They should change their habits, as steps to create awareness about drugs abuse impact needs to be strengthened.
Though the Border Security Force (BSF) is doing their job, the Punjab Police too need to play its role effectively in arresting the trend. Punjab Police had arrested some drug smugglers and seized the consignments. But we can not blame the BSF for trans-border smuggling," Mehta said, adding that he met the director general of the BSF to discuss various measures on strengthening vigil on the borders.
"A rare participation is going on between India and Pakistan on the issue even as the latter is equally concerned about impact of drug trafficking in the region. We have signed an memorandum of understanding with the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) of Pakistan, which is also working hard on its part. We are regularly sharing informations with ANF," he quipped.
He said that the NCB and the directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI) sleuths were now sharing the informations and were conducting joint interrogations of the arrested accused to intensify the campaign against drugs trafficking.
TR Meena, joint secretary, ministry of social justice and empowerment, also termed Punjab's situation on this count as worrisome. "We had initiated a pilot survey to collect data about age of drug users, kind and pattern of drugs abuse and sources of such drugs from this border state to evolve a plan for saving the gullible citizens from felling prey to such menace. The response of Punjab government is however not very encouraging on this count so far. We are hopeful to complete the survey within 4 to 5 months so as to later evolve a nationwide mechanism to conduct survey in all the states beginning next year," he said, adding that the Punjab government had supplied them part of requisitioned data while centre was expecting a pro-active approach on the part of the state.
Others, who spoke include UNODC South Asia representative Cristina Albertin, Rajay Ray, INCB member and ML Meena, joint secretary, department of revenue.