Eighteen months after the Centre introduced a mandatory drug test for weapons licences, authorities in most of Punjab, which has the highest number of arms licence holders in the country and where drug abuse is also rampant, have not either begun implementing it or are unaware of it.
As per new Arms rules notified on July 15, 2016, by the Ministry of Home Affairs, an applicant needs to be examined by a medical practitioner for mental health and physical fitness with “specific mention that the applicant is not dependent on intoxicating or narcotic substance”.
A random check revealed most districts in Punjab are issuing licences for weapons without this check, with officials saying they have no idea about the mandatory dope test for arms licences.
Deputy Commissioners are the arms licence issuing authorities in districts. The only exception is Bathinda district, where dope tests are being conducted on applicants. Additional Deputy Commissioner (General) Sheena Aggarwal, who has been delegated the authority to issue arms licence by Bathinda Deputy Commissioner, said, “We are going by the notification of new Arms rule ever since these were notified in 2016.”
“We are using a multi-drug testing kit to test sample of urine of the applicant for five different types of intoxicants,” said Dr P D Bansal, psychiatrist at Model De-addiction Centre at Bathinda, a government run de-addiction centre. Mohali district administration does not conduct the tests. The new form requiring the drug test is not available on the Punjab government website. Civil surgeons in Gurdaspur and Jalandhar, when contacted, said no specific dope tests were being carried out in their respective districts.
Gurdaspur Civil Surgeon Dr Kishan Chand, however, said applicants were examined by a psychiatrist on certain parameters, but admitted that a clinical examination was not enough to rule out any person’s dependence on intoxicants. He said he would go through the new rules.
Jalandhar Civil Surgeon Dr Raghubir Singh Randhawa said the district health department would study the rules and ensure implementation. “We are not getting any such examinations done. Now since you have brought this to notice, we will start getting it done,” said Mansa Deputy Commissioner Dharampal Gupta.
Subhash Chander, Amritsar’s Additional Deputy Commissioner (General) who is delegated with the authority to issue arms licences in Amritsar, said the administration was using proformas as per Arms Rules 2016. He, however, said he was not aware whether the doctors were certifying the proformas by carrying out tests using some testing kit or by clinical examination of the applicants. “We are only concerned with certification by the doctor. It is for the doctor to see on what basis he certifies that,” he said.