By Ishita Gopal
Edited by Namrata Caleb, Senior editor, The Indian Economist
On the outskirts of the holy city of Amritsar lies Maqboolpura, a small locality of widows. The common cause of the deaths of the husbands and sons of the locals is not bullets but smack and alcohol. Last year alone over 50 men died of drug abuse. The heartbroken wives and mothers have no one to turn to because ‘who would want to help people like these?’ Despite shedding numerous tears, the numbers succumbing to addiction haven’t reduced.
Maqboolpura is not a singular case. The entire state of Punjab is caught in the grip of this menace.
Punjab tops the list of most affected states with reports suggesting 73.5% of youth being under the influence of one drug or the other. The rich splurge on expensive drugs like heroin, opium, poppy flower while the poor get their high from iodex (yes, the pain relieving balm) and petrol. 60% of children are introduced to drugs in schools itself. Maximum number of cases of drug trafficking come from Punjab (NCRB) and this percentage has been growing at full tilt. It is the busiest drug transit in the world with drugs worth around 2000 crore travelling through the state daily.
It’s an open secret that political parties provide patronage to drug smugglers. Some are smugglers themselves! Jagdish Bhola, former DGP of state was also a former drug lord. Senior Akali leaders, running the state government are frequently accused of being involved but not much has been done against them.
The nexus of these drug peddlers has become so well established and strong, that it’s become a threat bigger than terrorism.
You can find pushers everywhere – at bus stops, railway stations and chemists, selling dope at 25 bucks a pop.
Drugs make their way from Afghanistan to Pakistan and enter India through Punjab despite the border being heavily guarded by the BSF, Narcotics Control Bureau, Directorate of intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau. (Makes you think about the extent of corruption within the agencies responsible for protecting the country. )
Then, packets containing drugs are hurled across the border, over electrical barbed fences from Pakistan and are picked up by the ‘Carrier’ ( Usually a farmer who has land next to the border) These carriers have mobiles with Pakistani SIM cards which work up to a certain distance in India. Using these prevents them from being tracked by the police. Once the mobile is switched on, a call from the second guy comes. The carrier then travels for a while, here and there, and once the second party is sure no one is trailing them, he/she meets the carrier and the packet is handed over. From here a short journey to Delhi begins in the dead of night.
No wonder there’s so much traffic on NH1 during the wee hours!
Within 8 hours, the job is complete and the trace gone.
As for distribution, a new system has emerged in Punjab – illegal chemist shops have mushroomed across the state. These shops sell narcotics at specific hours of the day. You can literally walk in, wink or nod at the guy sitting behind the counter and walk out with a pocketful of happiness.
Political parties need to stop turning a blind eye to this problem.
These so called ‘pubic servants’ need to take steps to save the youth (who are majorly affected) from ruining their lives. There is no question that drug abuse leaves a trail of destruction in its wake. Everyone around the addict suffers.
But seeing that politicians themselves are involved, the process of expunging the state of all those involved in trafficking would be difficult.
Root causes that act as triggers for drug abuse -unemployment, poverty, illiteracy,- need to be addressed. Children should be taught about the harmful effects of drug use in schools.
In order to cure addiction, proper rehabilitation centres need to be in place. Presently, there are 89 centres in the state, however only 22 of them are legal. Others are money making rackets where addicts are subjected to hellish conditions rather than being provided rehabilitation. There are no transit homes or support groups to help the people exiting the rehabs. As a result most of them return to drug abuse.
The future of the food bowl of India is in colossal jeopardy. If immediate action isn’t taken, Punjab will become a state with 6 instead of 5 rivers flowing through it. The 6th one being drug abuse.
Ishita is a BA( hons) Economics student from Miranda House, Delhi University. She is a multitasker and likes to be involved in all kinds of cultural activities. Besides writing she loves playing Beethoven symphonies, choir practices ,and reading fantasy and fiction.She prefers doing research about a subject by first watching a documentary or two on it, and then reading a lot of articles from different newspapers. Her dream job is to own a record label while doing freelance writing for a big magazine/newspaper.