Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh issued orders Wednesday mandating an annual drug test for all government employees, including new recruits. The matter will be discussed in the Cabinet soon, it is learnt, and the Chief Secretary has been directed to work out the modalities and get the order notified.
According to the new order, employees will be tested for drugs before being considered for promotion and it will be conducted apart from the annual medical check.
The Punjab government has drawn sharp criticism over the last few days after a spate of deaths attributed to drug overdose. The drugs issue, which was put on the backburner after setting up a police special task force to combat the menace, has assumed centre-stage once again.
At a cabinet meeting Monday, ministers and the party leadership blamed the state police for not being able to check the menace. Minister Tript Singh Bajwa had told The Indian Express Tuesday that he would demand a dope test for police officers from the rank of DSP to Inspector-General of Police. He even said that he suspected a few police officers were addicted to drugs.
An elated Bajwa said, “I am overwhelmed by the CM’s response. I did not even go to meet him personally to put forward my demand. He has done it already.” He also upped the ante and declared that he would get himself subjected to a drug test on Thursday.
“I will go to Chief Medical Officer’s office in Mohali tomorrow and give my blood sample. I am not saying I am suggesting anything to any of my colleagues or any party leadership. But I will get myself tested.” he said.
Bajwa’s had demanded drug tests for police personnel after the government dismissed a DSP and a Head Constable and transferred an SSP after allegations against the Punjab Police’s role in tackling drugs. As Punjab grapples with the drug menace, the demand for drug tests of legislators and political leaders of various parties has often been raised in the Assembly. Several legislators have often accused each other of consuming narcotics.
Earlier in the day, Amarinder formally communicated his Cabinet’s recommendation to the Centre seeking an amendment to the NDPS Act to sentence to death first-time offenders convicted of drug peddling.
In his letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Amarinder said that the existing Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, provides for the death penalty if certain offences are committed a second time. This means that a person can indulge in these nefarious activities and get away at least once, causing substantial damage to the youth and the society, he said.
“This should not be allowed to happen and even first-time offenders should be awarded death penalty for offences which are clearly elaborated in Section 31 A of the NDPS Act, 1985,” he said.
He also said: “It would help us in effectively containing if not eliminating the drug peddlers and mafia operating not only in Punjab, but also in other parts of the country.”