We shouldn’t have to wait for an Udta Punjab to make ourselves aware of Punjab’s drug problem

What is clear is that the Punjab drug problem should have gotten more national attention many years ago

Written by Anant Goenka | Updated: June 11, 2016 10:45 am
udta punjab, punjab drugs Drugs in Punjab is far more serious a problem than you can imagine

Several years ago, I found myself at a wedding on the outskirts of Amritsar. It was exactly what you’d imagine a lavish Punjabi wedding to be: a beautiful house with a dark patch of farmland behind it draped in bright generator-powered ferry lights, a live band singing bollywood, exaggerating the punjabi-ness to any word that could lend itself to the tongue, and a lot of dancing and mehendi rehearsing. And the smell was confusing. Sometimes fresh marigold flowers, other times diesel from the generator, but most often alcohol, especially around the gang of elderly men struggling to hold their glasses.

We were escorted inside to a smaller AC room where the young adults were – a waiter came up to me with a tray and asked If I’d like any.

“Like any what?” I asked as he lowered his tray full of drugs in the form of tablets. Neatly arranged, all in different colors, and each named after famous political figures in Punjab.

Drugs in Punjab is far more serious a problem than you can imagine. The Udta Punjab controversy is about free speech and creativity in a democracy. And without even seeing a single frame of the film, I do think the Censor Board chief is clearly out of line in trying to change the name of a movie. But we shouldn’t have to wait for a big budget bollywood blockbuster to make ourselves aware of the extent of the problem.

READ THE FULL EXPRESS INVESTIGATION 

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The Indian Express’ Chandigarh Bureau spent eight months investigating drugs in Punjab, I have just picked out some of the findings that highlight the extent of the problem:

1) The police are arresting only the drug addicts, but not the suppliers.

2) Sources in Kapurthala Jail say 40 per cent of new admits are drug addicts. In 2015, 14,483 FIRs were filed under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. That’s an average of 27 cases a day.

3) Healthcare provided to addicts in jails across Punjab is so inadequate that every 4 days 1 person booked for drug usage dies in police custody.

4) And this is possibly the most frustrating point of all: Drugs are easily available inside prison. A raid inside Kapurthala jail on May 9 this year yielded 308 syringes, which suggests a hand-in-glove economy even within the prison system. Amritsar prison is the only one with a de-addiction center, but last year 30 people booked under NDPS Act died in just this one prison.

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We will continue our investigation and hold agencies accountable but this issue certainly needs your attention.

Because the fact is that the state has lost an entire generation to drugs. Where are Punjab’s legendary young and restless? Where are they in law, business, sports, academia, science, media or entertainment? The Indian hockey team captain had dropped by our newsroom (you will read his Idea Exchange next week) and he said there’s been a sharp dip in the number of players from Punjab, the talent pool is drying up even in sports… and that’s scary.

I remember as a young boy in school my Geography teacher spoke of Punjab as the state where you’d never find a beggar on the street. It’s sad to read reports today of several young boys and girls, lying lifeless overdosed on drugs.

And sad to see that the fall from grace of a state so large and beautiful gets so much attention only because of a dictatorial censor board. What is clear is that the problem should have gotten more national attention many years ago, and let us hope that the controversy around the release of Udta Punjab doesn’t take away from the real problem: that what was once arguably India’s most prosperous state now stands ruined by drugs.

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  1. A
    Arjan
    Jun 11, 2016 at 8:59 pm
    Sorry sir(s), read it as Insaan and Suresh sir(s). Sorry for spelling mistake.
    Reply
    1. I
      immanuvel
      Jun 11, 2016 at 11:45 am
      It is once a prosperous state..now completely ruined
      Reply
      1. I
        Insaan
        Jun 11, 2016 at 11:20 am
        While the government machinery works 24/7 to control and eradicate the problem, the Punjabis should find refuge in the Granth Sahib at each and every Gurdwara in the state of Punjab to keep themselves and their children out of the harm of the dreaded disease. In the absence of demand for the drugs, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it dumped on the roadside like rotten potatoes for police to seize and destroy. Remember it is election time, don’t let AAP—political front of the dying Indian National Congress—take advantage of the situation. They are more harmful than the drugs!
        Reply
        1. K
          Kuldip S
          Jun 11, 2016 at 7:07 am
          It is common knowledge in Punjab that some ministers and state officials have been involved in drug-running since 40-50 years. A state once known for its virile, brave, enterprising people has been led to ruin by such unscrupulous greedy people. Now that a courageous film fraternity of Bollywood has brought the terrible story to celluloid for public viewing, Pehlaj Nihalani the arch villain of the CBFC has tried to suppress the truth from being told by orderng 94 cuts; I suspect at the behest of the ministers/officials of Punjab who feared being exposed. When will we have the courage to be honest and face the truth? The PM must intervene and tell Nihalani and others interfering with the expose to pull their fingers out.
          Reply
          1. R
            R.Mehta
            Jun 11, 2016 at 6:38 am
            It was for the govt. to take timely steps to curb the menace .The opposition parties have also not raised the issue in the past and thus it is the total failure on the part of all the parties. In Lok Sabha elections held only two years ago ,no body from any political party raised this issue and now when the problem has gone out of hand everybody is talking only but is not thinking of remedial measures to rehabilitate those are affected by it and to nab the main kingpins responsible for spreadinng the problem in the State.
            Reply
            1. R
              Ruchi Mittal
              Jun 11, 2016 at 2:01 pm
              In my view the movie is a great way forward as it will educate the youth. I agree absolutely why did not the previous Government's do something about this dangerous issue more seriously much much earlier. stan is responsible for spreading this menace on our borders while India sadly watched on. This issue must be tackled at the National Level something like the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan as it is even bigger and our future generations are being badly impacted. Plus we must at all costs tighten our borders and meet out the most strict punishment to such dealers and racketeer's!!!!
              Reply
              1. S
                Suresh
                Jun 11, 2016 at 11:13 pm
                Arjan beta tu spelling sambhaal apni..yeh kya saaar saar laga rakha hai.. pickle john hai kya tu? rahi statistics ki tu kahan se padke aya ye..spelling jo tik se kar nahi paata statistics achi hai teri..tu recommend karta hai scientific political aur social ka.. inka spelling tu tik se jaanta hai.. troll kahin ke
                Reply
                1. S
                  Suresh
                  Jun 11, 2016 at 12:07 pm
                  even ice cream is mixed with drugs and sold outside school. the political nexus and bollywood nexus want to reduce the country to shambles. Dharam ka paalan karna avashyak hai.. adharmi log chilla chilla ke bol rahein hai ki adharam his dharam.. i urge all people to watch ramayan and mahabharath to fight this mental decadence funded by the west to dastryo our cultaare
                  Reply
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