In Focus: Punjab
Drug Abuse has been an affliction much borne now and while the proliferation of this menace has been experienced by a larger part of the nation, the state of Punjab has invariably fallen in to be blamed for the situation.
In the recent survey conducted by the United Nation Organization, Punjab is indicated to have the second highest number of drug addicts in India. Similarly, the Department of Social Security Development of Women and Children reflects that as many as 64% of total rural household in Punjab have at least one drug addict in the family. Further investigations by the Health Care Institutions point out to at least one death due to the drug overdose each week in the region. Now if any state has such poor a result in the surveys, it is indeed in dearth of active measures. But what has set the death-bed for the state of Punjab is the unrestricted flux of drugs flowing in, strengthened by the unfortunate geographical location, wrong intellectual outlook as well as incoherent political approach.
Not only from the demand point of view, what makes this region significant for drug business is that the major tourist destinations are used to smuggle high-end synthetic drugs to faraway countries such as Canada, Israel, the UK, Germany and Holland. International drug dealers, Jagdish Singh Bhola and Dev Behl have confirmed on having used air and sea routes to smuggle the drugs out of the country. Similarly, there have been reports of the tourists coming to the nation to sell off the drug stock. Few months ago, Panchkula Police arrested 50 African nationals operating drug racket on a larger scale. These foreigners targeted teenagers and influenced them to carry on the trade in their respective schools and localities. Consider it the lack of communication in the parent-child relationship, that none of the family of the victims had a clue about it before the police took the matter to the forefront.
What reduces every remaining hope to the ashes is that the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir have been quite active in the production of natural and synthetic drugs within the boundaries of India. While Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh has been alleged of producing POPPY HUSK and other narcotics, a chemical industry of Himachal Pradesh have been producing synthetic drug by mixing pseudoephedrine with phenylpropanolamine and ephedrine. It is quite astonishing that those who have accorded Punjab the status of being the main culprit, have failed to react to the practice of opium served as paan in the Rajasthani wedding and the narcotic bought and consumed openly in the Malwa belt.
Tracing back the impetus given to the drug trade by the Green Revolution, the excuse of the drug intake has been rediscovered and revived. According to the expects, with the high level increase in the crop production in India, the Green Revolution called in for increased number of labor force and working hours. It was then that the farmers took to drugs and intoxicant to be able to bear the burden of the production required. Therein from the consumption of Bhuki(a wild grass) as the intoxicant, there was a shift to the higher variants and subsequently heroine.
Now that the price of commodities are shooting up like never before and the means of income shrinking, the drug addicts are opting for local and relatively cheaper variants of the intoxicants- ranging from pain-killer medicines to even toothpaste that contains some amount of nicotine. Not been produced for this purpose, these local variants turns out to be much more fatal than the high-end product. Following one of such cases, the Chandigarh Chemist Association has instructed its members to sell no Schedule H drug without prescription under any circumstance. Yet injectible drugs such as Avril, Coxwil and Brunophene are sold without any prescription openly. There has also been increase in the number of female drug addicts over years. Facing the societal pressure, many do not even report the case and of those who do, majority prefer Outpatient Department (OPD) over proper treatment.
However, the most indispensible role of the government has been the one most empathetically performed. Tackling the drug menace is surely a far cry as the leaders of the state have been even rejecting the high persistence of it. In the recent event on the International Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking Day (June 26), CM Parkash Singh Badal was seen passing on the blame to the Boarder Security Forces (BSF) for failing to stop the movement of drugs across the border and the other states for the transportation of opium and narcotics. Following the same note, the measures that have been taken so far is inclined much more by the will to disgrace the opposing leaders than to work in the public interest. But perhaps, some measure atleast!
It seems much likely that the heat of the verbal political battle has got on to the head of the Punjab leadership and is clearly affecting the decision-making ability. One such initiative born out their diverted mind has been reflected with much local uproar. The Psychiatrists in Punjab are protesting against the police officials for pressurizing them to disclose the contact details of the patients to get to the drug peddlers. The idea of reaching the kingpin through the drug patients is though quite appreciable but the outcome has not been considered. Firstly, revealing the details of the patient violates the official code of medical ethic set by the Medical Council of India and thus the license of the doctor is liable to get cancelled. Secondly, many patients do not inform their families regarding the treatment and thus the threat of it being revealed or getting into police enquires might make them not avail the treatment at all.
Yet there are certain measures which if properly implemented can redefine the image of the state leaders. The government has constituted the Punjab State Board for De-Addiction and Rehabilitation for operating the 28 new de-addiction centers in Punjab. These centers are established in collaboration with Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan and National Service Scheme (NSS) for preventive education and awareness generation programmes. The Ministry is also in the process of finalizing a National Policy on Drug Demand Reduction. One of the significant measures is the Cancer and Drug Treatment Infrastructure Fund Act (CADA) which collected INR 174 crore corpus funds recently. According to the Punjab National Health Mission Director and Health Secretary, Hussain Lal, 0.25% of the revenue of Basmati Paddy, 2% revenue of the auction of property, 1% of the tax on infrastructure and 33% of the tax on the purchase of tobacco goes in to be the total amount of the CADA fund.
Presently, what the aerial view of the situation reflects is that the parameter to define the extent of drug abuse has gone astray. The drugs and narcotics might not have been produced in the state of Punjab but then it stands to attract no significance. Infact, what DOES attract significance is the presence of the high level of drug abuse in the state, to which the point of consideration must shift. I personally choose to believe that the political dimension that any issue seems to be ascribed is the main cause of the measures going redundant. It has to be a force against the bane, not against one another. Earlier, when Rahul Gandhi pointed out to the ratio of seven out of ten people in Punjab addicted to drugs, it was not the call to point out the erroneous ‘mathematical calculation’ rather it was the plea to rise up against the drug menace. If only that plea was accepted…