Drug menace in Punjab: Confusion on role of anti-drug special task force
Immediately after taking oath in March last year, Amarinder announced to form the STF, and an ADGP rank officer, Harpreet Singh Sidhu, who was on central deputation for anti-insurgency operations in Chhattisgarh, was brought back to the state to head it amid much hype.punjab Updated: Jul 06, 2018 09:21 IST
As Captain Amarinder Singh’s Congress government appears to be making desperate attempts to fight Punjab’s drug menace that has got renewed attention, there are contradictions on the status and functioning of the police’s special task force (STF) against drugs.
Immediately after taking oath in March last year, Amarinder announced to form the STF, and an additional director general of police (ADGP)-rank officer, Harpreet Singh Sidhu, who was on central deputation for anti-insurgency operations in Chhattisgarh, was brought back to the state to head it amid much hype.
As per notification of the STF, Sidhu was made to report directly to the chief minister’s office (CMO), and not to the office of the state DGP. Sidhu was additionally appointed as ADGP (border) as areas along the border with Pakistan are seen as a gateway for drug smuggling.
But, as the STF allegedly became a “parallel power centre” in the police, and issues started cropping up between the STF and the rest of the police, the government shifted its stance. On March 26, Amarinder announced at a press conference that the STF chief will now report to the DGP’s office.
What complicates matters further is that, more three months after that announcement, the STF is yet to report to the DGP office.A senior functionary at the police headquarters said there were no formal orders for the STF to report to the DGP office. Meanwhile, Sidhu was divested of the charge of ADGP (border).This has fuelled confusion, said a senior officer posted with the STF.
“After the CM announced that STF will function under the DGP office, a lot of time has been wasted for implementation of this decision. The district police still think seizure of drugs is the job of the STF,” said an inspector general of police who too did not want to be named. The only “big” case the STF has cracked is of seizure of drugs from since-dismissed police inspector Inderjit Singh. That formed the base of infighting in the top brass of the police.
Lately, the STF’s focus has also changed from arresting the smugglers to creating awareness. Most of the big seizures made in the past six months were by the intelligence wing.“Lack of officers and staff has always remained an issue with the STF, and creating awareness on drugs and implementing big operations cannot go hand in hand,” said an STF officer.
The STF chief, who in March this year was “under fire” after a report prepared on the alleged role of SAD leader Bikram Majithia in the drug menace was leaked to the media, is now enjoying the backing of many ministers, it is learnt. “In the cabinet meeting on drugs on Monday, many ministers demanded to give a free hand to the STF. This has only led to more confusion,” said a senior official at the HQ.
First Published: Jul 06, 2018 09:20 IST