That Punjab is facing a drug abuse problem is common knowledge. But the scale of this problem can be gauged from latest statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). According to the NCRB’s 2014 data on prisons, Punjab accounts for 45 per cent of all prisoners convicted on drug-related charges. It also accounts for 30 per cent of undertrials facing such charges.
In fact, 34 per cent of all inmates in Punjab jails are incarcerated on drug charges. To put matters in perspective, the national average of inmates facing drug charges is just 6 per cent. An earlier report in The Indian Express had said that of the 26,000 inmates lodged in Punjab’s prisons, 47 per cent are undertrials and convicts jailed for drug abuse. The data had come from the state jail department.
According to the NCRB data, 8,923 convicts sentenced under Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act are languishing in various jails across the country. As many as 3,972 of these are in Punjab jails alone. As per the NCRB figures, Punjab jails have 10,540 convicts of which 3,972 face NDPS charges. Of the 15,467 undertrials in the jails of the state, 4,803 are facing such charges.
Drug smuggling into Punjab and drug abuse by the state’s youth has been a problem for over half a decade and has emerged as a key political issue in the state. Hundreds of kilograms of heroin and other drugs are regularly smuggled into the state from Pakistan.
According to an affidavit filed by Punjab police in Punjab and Haryana High Court last year, heroin seizures in the state have seen a 50-fold jump in the past decade. The affidavit has stated that while 9.80 kg of heroin was seized in the state in 2003, the figure jumped to 438.067 kg in 2014 (till September). This would roughly translate to 60 kg of heroin seized every month.
In 2009, the country recorded the highest-ever annual seizure of methamphetamine at 28.1 kg. In comparisson, Punjab alone recorded a seizure of 48.37 kg of methamphetamine in 2012 and 2013. Given that enforcement agencies generally assume that only 10 per cent of what is smuggled is seized, the actual quantum of smuggling could be much higher.
The NCRB figures also reflect that drugs generally come from across the border with arms. Among all states, Punjab jails have maximum inmates facing Arms Act charges. Given that it’s a small state and illegal gun culture is known to be more prevelant in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Punjab beating the two states on this front is a red signal.
According to the data, of the 1,533 convicts facing Arms Act charges across the country, 362 are lodged in Punjab jails. UP and Bihar have only 333 and 204 such convicts, respectively.