August 12, 2021 8:11:28 am
Nearly five years after making a promise, ahead of the 2017 Punjab elections, to end the drug menace in the state, the Congress government in Punjab has planned to bring a bill in the forthcoming monsoon session of the Vidhan Sabha to enact Comprehensive Action against Drug Abuse (CADA) Act.
This was decided in a high level anti-drug Campaign meeting held on August 2.
As per the minutes of the meeting accessed by The Indian Express, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) has been directed to obtain the Cabinet approval by this month end after getting the draft of the bill finalized. The bill is scheduled to be presented in the Vidhan Sabha in September, as per the discussions in the meeting chaired by Suresh Kumar, the chief principal secretary to Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh.
A detailed draft of the CADA Act has already been prepared, which was being fine tuned, said a top functionary.
The functionary said that initiatives like buddy programme and drug abuse prevention officers (DAPOs), which were currently based on guidelines only, would be made part of the Act. “The NDPS Act is in place for the enforcement, but to counter the problem of drugs, de-addiction and prevention measures are also needed and the proposed Act, among other things, would focus on these,” added the functionary.
Pulling all stops in the election year, the Punjab government is also planning to introduce Public Health Safety bill, aimed at decriminalizing addicts, who were not drug dealers, caught with small quantity of drugs and sending them to de-addiction centres for treatment instead of jailing them. This bill too is proposed to be presented in Vidhan Sabha in September.
The functionary said, “Though there was such a provision in the NDPS Act also, but as per that provision, the decision is taken after filing of chargesheet in the court. By the time chargesheet is filed, the addicts, who are not drug traders or dealers, end up spending quite a time in jail.”
“The government is toying with the idea to have Public Health Safety Act to decriminalize addicts caught with small quantity in the beginning itself and not till chargesheet is filed. It was also discussed that Punjab can go for an amendment in the NDPS Act, but that would have been a lengthy and cumbersome procedure as it would require Centre’s nod also. Since, health is a state subject, it has been decided to explore the possibility of having Public Health Safety Act,” said the functionary.
An official said that legal opinion to ensure that that the proposed Act was not in contravention with the NDPS Act would be sought.
The government is also working to introduce hotspot policy in the areas infested with the drug menace. As a pilot, the work is in process for drug hotspot Maqboolpura in Amritsar where among other things measures like CCTV cameras, lighting in the area and sports ground have been planned to check the drug trade. The hotspot policy would be replicated across the state by identifying police station wise areas in the districts.
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