Death by drug: 16 families that lost a loved one to drug addiction speak of Punjab’s big crisis

Indian Express spoke to 16 families that lost loved ones to addiction over the last year. From what these families said, drugs remain available in Punjab’s towns and villages, and without an adequate health intervention yet, addicts still have no hope

Written by Divya Goyal , Anju Agnihotri Chaba , KAMALDEEP SINGH BRAR | Chandigarh | Updated: March 14, 2018 7:33:01 pm
Punjab Drug Dead. Drug Dead Punjab, Punjab Drug Horror, Drug Horror Punjab, Punjab News, Latest Punjab News, Indian Express, Indian Express News A bereaved mother who lost her loved one over drug addiction in Punjab (Express Photo by Gurmeet Singh)

Teeka (injection) and chitta (heroin) — these two words continue to haunt families in Punjab who have lost their members to drug addiction. The Congress government had promised to wipe out drugs in four weeks, and has claimed to have broken the back of the drug trade. Indian Express spoke to 16 families that lost loved ones to addiction over the last year. From what these families said, drugs remain available in Punjab’s towns and villages, and without an adequate health intervention yet, addicts still have no hope.

GURLAL SINGH: 24, a final year B.Sc agriculture student at a private institute in Mandi Gobindgarh

Resident of village Ghaloti, Dharamkot, Moga district

Died : July 22, 2017

How: He was found by his mother Kuldeep Kaur lying unconscious with froth coming out of his mouth at their farm. He died by the time he was rushed to a local doctor and then a hospital. “We knew he was doing drugs. First we did not believe but then there were signs. Suddenly he started demanding more money. We got a de-addiction course also done but the effect did not last long. We have no idea where he got it from. We never allowed any of his friends to step inside our home. Whatever he got was outside home or in hostel. He mostly took chitta (heroin). Whenever we confronted him, he never accepted it,” says father Major Singh. Mother Kuldeep Kaur breaks down. “Saddey vargeya naal ki vaada, saada sab kuch jaa chukka hai (Promises mean nothing for us now. We have already lost our everything,”she says.

Nishan Singh, 35, unemployed

Resident of: Daulewala village, Dharamkot, Moga district

Died: October 10, 2017

How: “Teeka laake mar gaya oh (He died after injecting drug into his veins),” says sister Swaran Kaur. He collapsed in the verandah of their home and was declared borught dead at hospital. “His leg was in bad shape after it got infected due to reused needles. The infection had spread in entire body and doctors had given up. Even then he needed his teeka and would inject in his arms and other body parts till last breath,” said Swaran. “ I can live without food, not drugs” — these were his last words, his sister said. He was declared brought dead at hospital. Nishan has left behind wife Paramjit Kaur, now working as a laborer, and three sons, none of whom go to school.

Gurdyal Singh, 35, gurdwara granthi

Resident of Daulewala village, Dharamkot, Moga district

Died: February 28, 2018

How: He had been off teeka for several days as he did not have money. He was suffering from Hepatitis-C (known as kaala peeliya), common among addicts due to needles infected from reuse. On the day of his death, he had become breathless, kept vomiting blood and passed away. He had been on heroin injections for five years, and of late had begun inhaling it using a silver foil. He is survived by a mother, wife and two daughters aged 12 and 10. “We did not have money for his last rites as he had already sold our half kila land for his nasha. Relatives are bearing cost of last rites and prayer meeting,” says Surjit.

Kuldeep Singh Sonu, 34, daily wager

Resident of Daulewala village, Dharamkot, Moga

Died: January 17, 2018

How: Collapsed at his home after injecting himself. “Har vehle teeka lainda si (He used to inject something in his body all the time),” says Sandeep, his 12-year old son. His sister in law Bhinder Kaur said, “He used to help local drug peddlers as their courier and would keep some of the drug for himself. He would say that he can survive without family not drugs. That day he injected himself and within few minutes he collapsed and was no more. Generally he would inject 5-6 times a day,” she said. Sonu is survived by his wife and four children. Wife is working as a domestic help. The children go to a government school.

Hardeep Singh Sunny, 32, autorickshaw driver

Resident of Model Colony, Ludhiana

Died: February 13, 2018

How: Body found in Ladhowal area of Ludhiana, suspected death due to overdose on night of February 12. The police booked four men said to have been with him under section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of IPC and the NDPS Act. “He earned well, sufficient for our home. He was a divorcee. We don’t know that when and how he fell into drugs. One of his arrested friends told us that he injected in his abdomen and collapsed the next moment,” said his father Hardev Singh. “The others abandoned him and he died overnight. I asked them why they did not call the police or took him to hospital. Had they done that maybe my son would have lived,” said Harpreet Kaur.

Kuldeep Singh, 31, land owner

Resident of Chaunta village, Ludhiana east, Ludhiana district

Died: December 21, 2017

How: He was suffering from Hepatitis C and his arms and legs had severe infection wounds, from reused needles. He had been on heroin injections for five years. “Doctors at DMCH Ludhiana also gave up. We got him admitted to de-addiction center twice (three months each) but as soon as he was back, the drugs were back too. In the last one year, there was no limit to the heroin injections,” says wife Paramjit. Kuldeep had sold 2.5 killas of land to finance his habit. “Manraj, my son knows how his father died. He feels very ashamed sometimes,” she says.

Sukhdev Singh, 50 , agriculturist

Resident of Ghaloti village, Dharamkot, Moga

Died: February 25, 2018

How: He and his son Harbhajan were on a train to Uttar Pradesh from Moga taking their harvest machine that they had given on rent to a farmer in UP. “He vomited multiple times. He kept saying he needed his dose. In the morning he did not wake up,” says 35-year-old Harbhajan Singh. “Koun kehenda hai nashey khatam ho gaye? (Who says drugs have ended in Punjab). I have lost my husband to it, ask me,” sobs Sukhdev’s wife Balwinder Kaur.

Navjot Singh, 28, helped in his family business

Resident of Sector 32, Chandigarh road, Ludhiana

Died: Possibly February 23, 2018

How: Body found in his car on February 24. Following a probe, police booked his friend Gurpreet Singh. According to the SHO Sadar, Inspector Sukhdev Singh , Gurpreet who has been arrested, said they had taken injected heroin together but he fled when Navjot’s condition deteriorated. That day his father had told Navjot to stand in for him at the factory as he had to go to Malerkotla. When Navjot did not reach home by evening, the family informed police who found his body in the car in village Jhande. The SHO said used syringes and an empty bottle were found in the car. Police filed FIR on March 6, only after an autopsy confirmed that Navjot died of drug overdose. Navjot’s father Gulzar Singh when contacted said he was not aware of his son’s drug habit.

Karanbeer Singh , 22

Resident of Kot Atama Ram locality, Amritsar

Died: February 5, 2018

How: FIR at Sultanwind police station says Karanbeer died of drug overdose .Parents found him dead in his bedroom. “He had quit the drugs. He had started going to the gym. He was still getting treatment from the Sawami Vivekananda Drug addiction centre. This happened on the day we went out of the city to attend a marriage,” said father Rajinder Singh. Karanbeer was engaged to be married. His parents are well off and they were supporting his battle against drugs. “We fulfill all hisr wishes. His room is still packed with expensive brand shoes, watches, accessories etc. He was getting treatment and doctors were happy with his progress. But finally drug addiction become the reason of his sudden death,” said Rajinder Singh.


Vicky Singh, 22, worker at Chennai port

Resident of Sangal Basati, Patti, district Tarn Taran

Died: January 22, 2018

How: His body was found in an open ground of Sangal Basti. He had come home on 15 days leave. He had taken an injection. His mobile was missing. “He was earning good money in Chennai. It was only when he came to Punjab he took drugs. Here he would find company of addicts,” Says mother Palwinder Kaur. Vicky’s house is just opposite to the railways track in Sangal Basti of Patti, which is infamous for drug addicts. “Drugs are easily available on our street. In fact, addicts come from other cities to Sangal Basati to buy drugs. I used to drag him from the group of addicts whenever I found Vicky sitting with them. He would feel embarrassed and requested me to not do this. But I wanted to save my son.” A local NGO Kaffan Bol Peya (SpeakingShroud) carried his body in a procession through Patti town, to the office of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, demanding the arrest of drug smugglers.

Kamaldeep alias Vicky, 37, occasionally worked as a daily wager

Resident of Kamalpur Mohalla in Hoshiarpur district

Died: December 18, 2017

How: His body was found near Lajwanti stadium along with drug injections and capsules near his body a day after he returned home from a drug de-addiction centre. “I had admitted him to a de-addiction centre at Kapurthala and brought home after a 21 days course. Doctors at the centre wanted to keep him for 30 more days more but I didn’t have Rs. 5,000 fee to deposit. I had already borrowed the earlier fee of Rs. 4000 for 21 days,” said Ramana, his 35-year-old widow. He had told her he was going out on an errand and that was the last she saw of him. Ramana, who works as a domestic help for Rs 3,000 per month, said her husband was taking injection and ‘Chitta’ both as he had rich friends who used to provide him all kind of ‘Nasha’

She discovered one year after her marriage in 2011 that her husband was an addict. “I tried my best and sent him to rehabilitation centre thrice but my financial condition is very bad and I could not afford the expenses to give me proper care. I still have to return over Rs. 30,000 debt to my relatives,” she said. The couple have two daughters Tanya (15) and Sanya (12), and a seven-year-old son Chandu.

Gurmangat Pal Singh, 27, petrol pump employee

Resident of Zahura village in Tanda, Hoshiarpur district

Died; February 13, 2018

How: His family says he was not a drug addict and has alleged was given an overdose by his friend Teeta. He died while being taken from Tanda hospital in an ambulance to Civil Hospital Hoshiarpur.

“On February 13 night at around 7:45 pm Teeta, his friend, who had returned from Dubai few days back took him along in his car. A 10 pm we got a call from Teeta that Gurmangat had fallen unconscious,” said his sister Manjit Kaur, his sister. They asked Teeta to take him to a hospital, which he did. But he did not admit him, and called the family to get to the hospital and admit him themselves. Gurmangat had gone to UK to study where he lived four and a half years. “When he returned two years back we got him married. He was such a calm boy that I could not imagine that he could die like this,” said father Ranjit Singh, a retired Army Subedar. Gurmangat and his wife have anine-month-old daughter. Police have booked Teeta and an unidentified person under section 302 IPC.

Gurpreet Singh alias Gopi, 27, unemployed

Resident of Bidhipur village, Jalandhar-2, Jalandhar district

Died: May 16, 2017

How: His body was found on May 17, in the fields of Wariana village, 10 kms from his own village. According to his mother, it had turned blueish and injections were found near it. According to police he was admitted in the de-addiction centre of Punjab Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) but he slipped out of there the day before his death. According to Maqsudan Police station record he had died due to a drug overdose. However his mother Surjeet Kaur denied he was admitted in PIMS . She said Gopi was at home when his friends took him along despite her protests. When he did not return till evening, the family informed the police. His 25-year-old wife Jyoti has returned to her parents home after his death. He has two married sisters. His father has lived in England for nearly 25 years.

Ravi Kumar, 19 , unemployed

Resident of Dheena village, Jalandhar-2, Jalandhar district

Died: April 29 in Civil Hospital

How: According to his mother Paramjit Kaur, Ravi was taken away by his friends from home on April 25 from home. “He did not come home for two days, when we brought him back after two days. He was found unconscious from drug overdose in the fields of nearby village Dheena. His condition was very serious. We admitted him in civil hospital where he died. The drug was forcibly given to my son through injection by three youth including two from my village,” she said. Both she and her husbnad Franklin are daily wagers. They have two married daughters.

According to the police, Ravi and his friends were addicts and used to take drug injections. He died of an overdose. He was first taken to a hospital in Jamsher and from there he was taken to civil hospital Jalandhar where he died. A case was registered on the mother’s complaint against three accused under section 304 (Culpable homicide) of IPC. The IO, ASI Gurvinder Singh, said of the three accused, Ravi and Samuel Masih were arrested while Danial was declared PO. “Captain Amarinder Singh promised to end the drug menace in one month after he made the government, my son died in 45 days after the formation of the new government,” she said.

Harpreet Singh, 25, plumber

Resident of Dhadda Haripur village, (tehsil) Jalandhar district

Died: On August 6, 2017

How: His body was recovered from the Bein, a rivulet of Beas river, on August 12 by Malsian police, who cremated him three days later after advertisements in the paper asking for his identification brought no claimants. He had gone missing from home on August 6, and his father (Name?) had lodged a missing person’s complaint on August 12 at a different police station. It was only in September that the police could join the dots. According to police, Harpreet was seen with Kamaljeet,another plumber, on August 6 in Latiwal village. They were at their friend Santokh’s house, where Harpreet was given an injection with an overdose of ‘chitta’. Harpreet’s condition turned bad and he died following which Kamaljit and Harjinder threw the body in Bein. Kamaljit came back to the village and behaved normally and even accompanied the family to trace Harpreet even. The missing case has been converted under Sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) 201 (disappearance of evidence) and 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on September 23, 2017 following the statement of Santokh Singh against three youth- Kamaljeet Singh and Harjinder Singh of Khanpur Dhada village in Jalandhar (both are arrested), and Santokh Singh Sukha of Latiwal village of Kapurthala (declared PO).

Nitish Kumar, 24, working in a private company

Resident of Premgarh Mohalla, Hoshiarpur

Died: July 25, 2017 in Civil Hospital

How: According to city police station record Nitish was an addict and had died in Arora Complex after taking drug overdose. His family was not available at home.

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