As viral videos put the spotlight on drug addiction in Punjab, the CM says govt is dealing with drug dealers with iron hand.
Chandigarh: It was a troubled weekend in Punjab as two heartbreaking videos went viral, putting the spotlight on the rampant drug addiction in the state.
The video of a mother seeing the body of her son sent shock waves in Punjab Saturday. Balwinder, 22, had a syringe in his hand as the inconsolable mother turned his stiff body into her lap. The boy, probably dead for several hours, was lying in a garbage dump next to a wall.
The Kotkapura incident came a day after two boys, both in their twenties, had died in Amritsar’s Chheharta due to suspected drug overdose.
The second video was from a village in Baba Bakala, Amritsar, where a boy’s parents can be seen begging for help for their addict son. The woman says her son steals household goods and sells them to pay for his drugs.
Responding to this alarming trend of drug abuse, Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh said his government is dealing with drug smugglers and peddlers with an iron hand but stressed the need to delve deeper and understand the causes of this menace.
Excerpts from a freewheeling interview with ThePrint:
On demand for drugs
The CM said there is a need to understand why Punjab’s youth is being pushed into drugs.
“Controlling supply is one thing but what are the reasons that there is a constant demand for drugs? Most people think it is unemployment. But that is not the only reason,” he said.
According to Singh, Punjab’s youth is disillusioned and frustrated.
“And we have to tackle that. 50 per cent of my students are failing in class X and then so many fail in Class XII. What will this constant sense of failure lead to?” he asked.
“For those who fail, there is no glimmer of hope, no future. Traditional agriculture is not remunerative and where are the jobs for such youth?” the CM said.
The CM also stressed on improving the education system.
“I have created a committee of three-four school education experts to suggest solutions. Also I have asked my officers to cut budget from other areas and pump it into education and health. That is where the long term solution (to the drug problem) lies,” he pointed out.
Singh said the state government has started teaching college students about the problem of drug addiction.
“If need be it will be introduced at the school level too. For the treatment of addicts we have opened de-addiction centres across the state,” he said. “Clear order to the police is that addicts or drug consumers have to be treated like patients, not criminals.”
On supply of drugs
At the border where drug packets are thrown across the wire, it is a daily battle, the two-time CM noted.
Smugglers discover new routes; use sophisticated technology to remain one step ahead of the border security force, he said.
“It is a part of the larger design of the ISI in Pakistan to destabilise India’s border states: Kashmir, Punjab and Rajasthan. That makes them feel secure,” Amarinder Singh said.
“Once it is inside India, it is traded and distributed and dealers make millions,” he said.
Singh said that the government is dealing with drug smugglers with iron hand.
“We have, within one year of coming to power, put nearly 14,000 drug dealers in jail. A handful of the big fish remain, but soon they would be caught too,” he added.
The chief minister said he does not rule out the possibility of a police-drug dealer nexus.
“But the message to my police force is very clear: you hobnob with drug peddlers/dealers and you will not just lose your job but also face serious criminal charges,” Singh said.
“I have asked the STF chief Harpreet Singh Sidhu to work closely with the police and identify the black sheep,” he claimed.
Singh said the drug problem is not limited to Punjab alone and that it has spread to Haryana as well.
“But we are doing all we can to handle the situation. The STF we set up has been given complete freedom to work and let there be no confusion about that,” the CM asserted.
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