With Punjab government’s drive against drugs in full swing, truck drivers in the state want poppy husk vends to be opened in Punjab, while backing the crackdown on synthetic drugs. Batting for easy access to poppy husk, Sukhwinder Singh, a Ludhiana-based driver, said, “We are often asked to reach a destination within a stipulated time. For example, we are asked to reach Kolkata in three days, so there is no choice but to drive continuously. So at that time, a little dose of poppy husk helps us a lot.” Concerned about the anti-drug crackdown, Sukhwinder, who had come to State Institute of Automotive and Driving Skill in village Mahuana in Muktsar for renewal of his licence, said that it had become difficult for him to get his daily dose.
“Earlier husk was available at Rs 3000/kg, and now it is 6000/kg. But it is available and we have to carry it with our own risk,” he said. Makhan Singh and Sukhwinder Singh, two truck drivers from Anandpur Sahib, said, “There is strictness in Punjab, but the one who wants his dose, can get it from outside Punjab as well. No doubt they have to shell out more.”
While Amaninder Singh from Jalandhar, who too had come for renewal of his licence, agreed, Onkar Singh — a truck driver of Tarn Taran — said, “No doubt we also know that drugs should be rooted out from Punjab, but stress should be on synthetic drugs which are causing harm and are deadly. Most truck drivers are used to taking poppy husk…”
Every year nearly 50,000-60,000 drivers come to the institute for renewal or making of new driving licences for heavy motor vehicles.
Jagsir Singh Dhaliwal, vice-principal of the institute, said,”We continue to spread awareness among the drivers about harmful effects of drugs and these days we are even giving a special lecture on de-addiction as well after the drive that has been launched. However, drivers often make this confession that they are used to taking poppy husk and hence they need counselling to shun drugs rather than complete withdrawal. We invite doctors at times in our training classes. However, addicts themselves need to have will power to shun drugs.”
Meanwhile, Gurdeep Singh Toor, a Bathinda villager, is visiting various truck union offices in Punjab and giving speeches advocating that poppy husk vends should be opened in Punjab. He travels carrying a placard “poppy husk di kheti karan di izazat deo (give permission to grow poppy husk.)”
“I meet truck drivers in Bathinda, Muktsar, Mansa and many other cities of Punjab. I feel drugs menace has not ended in Punjab, but the substances have become costly. I also feel that the one who eats poppy husk will not fight with anyone and will also not do any thefts, there it should be affordable for all those who are used to it….” Even TMC’s Punjab unit chief Jagmeet Brar and suspended AAP MP Dharamvira Gandhi had stated that poppy husk vends should be allowed in Punjab. Gandhi had even sent a memorandum to the CM Capt Amarinder Singh in this regard.