The meeting comes as a citizen campaign gets underway to project the people’s disenchantment with alleged government inaction to curb drug abuse.
Chandigarh: A worried Captain Amarinder Singh, the Punjab chief minister, called a special cabinet meeting Monday as fresh allegations of police collusion with the drugs mafia put the government in a spot.
Some government officers will also attend the meeting, which has been convened days after two videos, showing an overdose death and a couple pleading for help for their addict son, went viral.
Successive governments of Punjab have been accused of failing to rein in the state’s drug crisis even as it has reportedly ensnared hundreds to thousands of youth.
The meeting comes amid a state-wide citizen campaign called ‘Maro ja virodh karo’ that taps popular disenchantment with what is seen as the government’s inaction on the endemic narcotics abuse by the border state’s young.
The Akalis, too, have decided to take on the government over the issue, with a protest march from Kotkapura to Faridkot starting Monday.
Another campaign, launched last week by MLA Simrejeet Singh Bains of the Lok Insaaf Party (LIP), seeks to draw attention to an alleged nexus between police personnel and the masterminds of the racket.
“Is the rampant sale and distribution of illegal drugs on the streets of Punjab possible without a well-oiled drug mafia-police nexus? Drugs are available in Punjab as easily as bread,” said Bains.
Fresh charges against police
On Thursday, a 26-year-old woman from Ludhiana, at a press conference in Jalandhar, alleged that a deputy superintendent of police (DSP) posted in Ferozepur had got her hooked to heroin, and raped her when she demanded drugs again.
Once she was addicted, she added, the DSP asked her to sell drugs for a commission. According to her, he “purchased” the drugs from smugglers and sold them for a profit. She said the DSP supplied her drugs till 2015, after which she started buying them from a local dealer in Ludhiana.
The victim was recently discharged from a drug de-addiction centre in Kapurthala and “presented” before the public by Bains and Punjab leader of the opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira of the AAP. Already under fire over the issue, the CM ordered the DSP’s suspension and an investigation.
A day later, the video of a policeman from Jalandhar purportedly consuming drugs with a woman went viral. The woman later alleged that the policeman had pushed her into taking drugs, while the police commissioner said she was in a relationship with the man seen in the video. He, however, added that the cop, who was under suspension on another charge, would be probed for allegedly consuming/selling drugs.
A ‘helpless’ MLA
Last week, former cabinet minister and Kapurthala MLA Rana Gurjit Singh of the Congress claimed publicly that he was finding himself helpless in acting against a station house officer (SHO) “allowing drug trade to flourish in his area”.
He said his multiple complaints to the CM and senior police officers had not yielded any result. “This cop (naming him) forced a young boy into drugs… (the boy) died after some time. But no one listens… Investigations have been going on for 15 months. What is the use?” he said on a TV channel. The SHO was shifted this Sunday.
Navtej Cheema, the Congress MLA from Sultanpur Lodhi, demanded stricter action against the SHO, who is posted in his constituency.
On Sunday, a Congress leader from Jalandhar, Nimisha Mehta, alleged that a Chabbewal-based man was framed by police for the sale of injectible drugs after he refused to pay Rs 50,000 to a local policeman who had picked him up.
The drug mafia’s possible police connection has long been suspected, but there’s a widely-held perception that the brass of the force “protects their men”. The most high-profile case of late was the investigation against senior superintendent of police (SSP) Raj Jit Singh, accused of involvement in a multi-crore drug-haul racket. A DGP-led SIT subsequently hinted at the role of two of the state’s 11 other DGPs. The SIT submitted its report in the Raj Jit case in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in May, and action is awaited.