Although the Punjab government has expressed its displeasure at the re-opening of poppy husk vends in Rajasthan, doctors at de-addiction centres here say the month-long ban did little to deter Punjab’s addicts.
The Rajasthan High Court had ordered the closure of vends in the first week of July but four days ago, contractors got the stay vacated by the Supreme Court on the grounds that they had deposited the fee for the whole year.
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Doctors here now say that the de-addiction centres of Punjab never saw an alarming increase in the number of patients over the past month. “Patients of a large area come to this centre but we get only 50-60 patients per day in OPD. It was the same number even before the closure of vends,” said Dr Rahul, a psychiatrist at Badal village.
He, however, said that the previous crackdown in June last year, when the Punjab government had repeatedly raised the issue Rajasthan with the Union Government, had led to a large number of patients flooding the de-addiction centres. The Rajasthan government had then strictly prohibited the distribution of poppy husk to non-license holders. “Last year when the Rajasthan government had acted tough, more than 300 patients would come to the OPDs on a daily basis. We, however, did not observe any such increase in the number of patients this time,” Dr Rahul added.
Similar was the observation of Dr Renu at the de-addiction centre of Malaut, which caters to Muktsar and its adjoining areas. “Earlier our centre would get about 25-30 patients and after the closure of vends in the last month, this number increased to 35-40 patients per day. It is not a very significant increase like we saw in June last year, when daily OPD numbers crossed 250 patients,” she said.
The Indian Express team also spoke to taxi and truck drivers, who admitted that they were still buying poppy though at five times the usual price. Baljinder Singh, a taxi driver from Malaut, said: “Earlier a 100 gram packet was available for Rs 200 while during closure days, we were getting a 50 gram packet for Rs 500. Money was the only issue and supplies were not a problem”.
Mukstar SSP Kuldeep Singh Chahal, however, said police have stepped up security at the state border. “Our surveillance is so strong that no outsider can bring husk towards Punjab,” he added. The view was seconded by Fazilka SSP Swapan Sharma. “Addicts have reduced a lot in our area because of non-availability of drug,” he added.