Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday announced free treatment for drug addicts from poor economic strata at all state-run de-addiction centres, and free travel with one attendant in government buses to such centres, on the lines of facilities given to cancer patients. Responding to reports of police probing antecedents of addicts in such centres, he directed additional chief secretary (ACS), home, NS Kalsi to issue strict orders against entry of any police official into the centres or harassing addicts or their families. The CM was chairing a high-level meeting of civil surgeons, medical superintendents and principals of government medical colleges at Punjab Bhawan in Chandigarh. He directed his chief principal secretary, Suresh Kumar, to ensure that funds for free treatment are immediately placed at the disposal of the deputy commissioners concerned. If more funds are needed, he will sanction the same from Chief Minister’s Relief Fund, it is learnt. He also directed the health department to explore the possibility of seeking financial aid from reputed national and international health organisations, besides engaging NGOs already working to fight drug abuse. The CM also asked the health department to put in place a mechanism for utilising services of private hospitals, medical and educational institutions in treatment of addicts by empaneling them on prescribed government rates. Health minister Mohindra said they would soon recruit more psychiatrists to overcome shortage. He also suggested engaging services of private players for opening Outpatient Opioid-Assisted Treatment (OOAT)-based clinics. Dr Rana Ranbir Singh, psychiatrist from Tarn Taran civil hospital, suggested launching OEND (Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution) programme, which is being implemented in US to save the lives of hardened drug addicts.An inspector general of police posted with the special task force (STF) against drugs informed the meeting that there is a provision under the NDPS Act for seeking funds from the Centre to supplement the state’s efforts to fight the drug menace. In response, the CM asked health minister Brahm Mohindra to take up the issue with the Union ministry of social justice and empowerment. Will take up the issue with PM: Capt Amarinder Citing drug trafficking as an inter-state problem of which Punjab is “the biggest victim”, Amarinder said he will take up the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and urge him to intensify Centre’s efforts to prevent entry of drugs and narcotics into Punjab from adjoining Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. *Vigil on African students: CM called for strict vigil over nefarious activities of some foreign students, especially of African origin, who are studying in private institutions and are reportedly into drug smuggling and peddling. He asked the management of these institutions to crack down on such students. *Chemists under lens: CM ordered crackdown on chemists openly supplying countermanded medicines by flouting prescribed norms, and asked the health minister to convene a meeting of chemist associations to discuss ways to put an end to it. He, however, said genuine buyers should not be harassed in the guise of strict enforcement.