Punjab Undertakes Drug Eradication in ‘Mission Mode’
In June, the Punjab Police kickstarted a special drug tackling project termed as Cordon and Search Operation (CASO). This is one among the initiatives that the Punjab government under Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has taken up to eradicate the raging epidemic that has been haunting the state.
Successive governments in Punjab have failed in fighting the drug menace, which continues unabated. Factors that contributed to its rise are numerous such as deep nexus between gangs and police, delayed legal action and lack of proper health infrastructure that led to mushrooming of exploitative rehabilitation centres. The problem is massive and has been a central issue in every election in the state, as it contributed in the rise of crime and affected the lives of lakhs of families.
As per news reports, explaining the government’s efforts, CM Singh said on June 26: “Good progress has been made in the war against drugs till now.… I stand committed in my resolve to put an end to the menace of drugs and will not rest until Punjab wins this war.” On July 30, he also launched an anti-drug campaign in over 1,600 colleges across 22 districts in the state.
In the ongoing CASO drive, the police have mapped 125 sites identified as havens for smugglers and addicts in the state, according to The Tribune. Also, in the last two months, as many as 663 persons were arrested and 406 FIRs filed so far.
The Congress government is also pushing for the formation of fast-track courts for speedy trials under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. In the last two years, nearly 25,000 FIRs have been registered under the Act.
The Punjab Drug Problem
According to the National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance Use in India, 2018, by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Punjab ranks tops when it comes to higher prevalence of variety of drugs and substance abuse. It was found that 51.7% of the state's population was into alcohol use, it ranked third among states in the category against 27.3% average in India. The survey said about 27 lakh people in Punjab needed help for alcohol problems in 2018.
It is estimated that 5.7 lakh people in the state need help for cannabis- related problems, 7.2 lakh people are affected with opioid-related problems, 2 lakh people need help for sedatives-related problems and over 88,000 people inject drugs.
According to another research study by National Centre for Biotechnology Information, over 65.5% adolescents in Punjab were found under the influence of substance use.
Nexus Between Drug Supply Gangs and Police
As per media reports, in the last two years, over 13 policemen, from constables to inspectors have been arrested in drugs-related cases. In 2013, then Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Jagdish Singh Bhola was arrested in a Rs 6,000 crore drug racket case.
The CM has recently also announced the government’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy when it comes to taking action against officials, including policemen. He recently asked the DGP to bring out a comprehensive policy to break the nexus.
As per a 2017 report by the state's health department, the rehabilitation centres are overcrowded, lack facilities and staff including psychiatrists and patients are tortured in the name of treatment.
This drug problem of Punjab, as it seems, needs to be addressed through a strategic approach that includes tackling crime while building robust health and legal institutions with utmost priority.
According to the survey mentioned above, alcohol is the most common psychoactive substance used by Indians followed by cannabis and opioids. About 16 crore people in the country consume alcohol, 3.1 crore use cannabis products, 2.26 crore use opioids and nearly 1.18 crore use sedatives. Furthermore, the report stipulates that 2.9 crore individuals suffer from alcohol dependence, 25 lakh from cannabis dependence, 28 lakh from opioid dependence and 11.8 lakh are using sedatives in dependent pattern.
But, the way the central government has been addressing the problem proves to be only token, if one looks at the poor allocation of funds for the purpose. During 2019-20, some Rs 105 crore is allocated under the ‘Central Sector Scheme of Assistance for Prevention of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse’ and another Rs 135 crore has been allocated under the National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction programme being implemented by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
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