Drug-related deaths on the rise in India’s prosperous Punjab state
After its campaign against terrorism, Punjab is now facing the menace of drug trafficking. As a transit route for drug trafficking, Punjab has gradually become a victim of substance abuse, which undermines the morale, physique and character of its youth. Drug trafficking and trade are common in the Malwa, Majha and Doaba regions of the state. The Chief Minister’s Office said that 40 percent of Punjabi youth in the age group of 15 to 25 years have become a victim of drugs and 48 percent of farmers and laborers are addicted to drugs. In Majha and Doaba, 65 percent of households have at least one drug addict. Derivatives of opium (70 per cent) and tranquilizers, pain relievers (30 per cent) etc. are in great demand.
Apart from affecting the health and lives of common people, the spread of narcotics in Punjab can be seen as a part of the dual strategy of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) to re-activate terrorism in Punjab. and gather income to support its psychological oppression exercises in India. As per Punjab Police sources, fear mongers and enemies of nationals are more dynamic in this piece of the country. Punjab, being a sensitive border state adjacent to Jammu and Kashmir, is being used as a conduit for the transport of men and material, including drugs and improvised explosives, into trouble-prone Jammu and Kashmir. In the first five months of 2003, the Punjab Police had seized about 1078 kg of poppy husk, 3.5 kg of heroin and 20 kg of charas. 28 people, including two women, have been arrested for drug trafficking. Following are some such cases.
Police in Himachal Pradesh believe that ‘chitta’, the Punjabi name given to a snow-white powdery substance derived from heroin and containing other chemicals, is finding its way into Himachal as the drug mafia seeks to expand its market. The problem is not limited to any particular demographic.
“One reason (for drug menace) is that Himachal is also a producer of drugs/narcotics. This is followed by inflows from Punjab. Many people engaged in drug trade in Punjab have found green pasture in Himachal. Easy targets are youth aged 17-27. This is becoming a dangerous situation,” said OP Sharma, a former Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) official.
The large presence of foreigners in the highlands of Kullu, Manali and Parvati valleys has given locals a way to find international markets for their medicines. Hilly areas have large tracts of land, mostly inaccessible forest areas, where people have illegally cultivated cannabis and opium. Police operations to uproot illegal cannabis and opium crops in Kullu, Malana, a remote village and Manikaran Valley have not stopped the flow.
A dose of ‘Chitta’, which is just under a gram, costs Rs 500, which is five times the profit for the dealers. Initially, drug users finance the habit out of their own pocket or by borrowing.
The reality in Punjab is that the state’s drug system is being funded and operated by politicians, police and bureaucrats. Most of the kingpins of the Legislative Assembly of Punjab are also a part of the game. Police well, they certainly sell some stuff they confiscate for some quick money and put their hands in bureaucratic gloves. It should be easily emphasized here that if anything is easily available in Punjab, it is definitely an intoxicant. Another factor that has encouraged the drug menace is the glamorization of Hindi and Punjabi songs like Honey Singh and lyrics that talk about chitta. They turn substance abuse into something that is masculine and glamorous.
Talking about the rough figures, drugs worth Rs 7500 crore are consumed in Punjab in a year, due to which drugs worth 20 crores are being taken daily in the state. About 8-10 percent of Punjab’s population is addicted to drugs, of which 70 percent are in the age group of 18-35 years.
We take you on a drive through drug nexus in Punjab. We talk to a 35 year old entrepreneur based in Ludhiana, he is a drug addict, he started taking drugs about 3 years back, sharing his story, he says, “Drugs are easily found, I get them The parties were introduced. Initially it was mixed in my drink by my friends and given to me. In the high-end circle of the people of Punjab, not only men but women also consume all kinds of intoxicants. This is a routine in our society. We have fixed dealers who give us lump sum at discounted rates as we are regular. We inhale them during parties and at times even inject it directly at high levels. Well, how to get it, it’s easy.
We speak to a drug dealer based in Amritsar and he insists that selling drugs is the easiest in Punjab, “We have customers for everything from heroin, cocaine to marijuana. Cocaine is the most expensive, it is a crystalline powder-like substance that numbs the tongue when ingested. Heroine is also sold here, it is white and sometimes brown in color. Heroin basically affects the respiratory system of people. It is basically bitter in taste. I have clients ranging from 14 years old to 45 years old”
Medicines are sold at high rates and all kinds of people approach this man to get their daily dose, “I have youngsters bringing not only cash but jewelry on time. Because they are desperate for their medicine packets. I sometimes feel that dealers like us have destroyed an entire generation in the state. But then if not me then there is someone else. It includes everyone from politicians to police. The alliance has spread far and wide. So a lot of work and discretion is needed if things are to improve to their needs.”
Shares a 22-year-old student of a leading university in the state, “When I joined the hostel, I was shocked to see that most of the boys here have drugs. Opium is common, that it starts eating them in the morning itself. I am talking about drugs like heroin and cocaine. They are inhaled, injected and taken orally. Some like to mix it with Coke.
Most of the money that parents send for studies and tuition is spent like this and the dealers are openly known here and they come and drop the medicines packets as per the orders of the students. Huh. ,
Things are no different for girls as the girls in their university and in many colleges they know that they too are addicted to drugs and at times it is their boyfriend who supplies them with supplements.
Another 25-year-old boy quipped, “Medicines can be brought from some chemist shops too. We meet our dealers either in nightclubs or sometimes in busy parks. We keep changing places because of social fear otherwise there is no problem, the police know very well where to find the dealers and who takes drugs in the city but then they let all these things openly under their nose . We know of many policemen who also sell drugs which they confiscated for some easy money.
The cases of drug addicts are so bad that in most villages the family has to keep the addict in separate rooms. When the situation worsens, families are left with no option but to give the person the required daily dose. They know that when a person has crossed the threshold there is no turning back for him.
It has also been reported that drug smugglers take advantage of the dust storm to smuggle narcotics from Pakistan to Rajasthan, and then supply it to other places. Drug trafficking is the main source of funds for terrorist organizations operating in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of the country. It has emerged as a profitable venture for terrorist organizations that have suffered in recent times due to freezing of their bank accounts and dismantling of the hawala (money laundering) network. As a result, a sweet nexus develops between terrorist organizations and mafia gangs, the latter a willing participant in the spread of the drug among local agents. In addition, mafia gangs help terrorist organizations move arms and ammunition both within and across the country.