Poppy seed farming issue gathers steam ahead of elections, NGOs seek support from political leadershttps://indianexpress.com/elections/poppy-seed-farming-issue-gathers-steam-ahead-of-elections-ngos-seek-support-from-political-leaders-5636765/

Poppy seed farming issue gathers steam ahead of elections, NGOs seek support from political leaders

After the announcement of poll dates, an 'Insaaf' team has organised road shows in Jagraon, Abohar, Muktsar Malaut and even has plans to cover more areas in the coming days before polls.

Joga Singh, a farmer from Ferozepur, demanding legalisation of poppy husk cultivation in the state during a rally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July last year. (Express Archive)

A long-standing debate over whether poppy husk and opium are lethal or non-lethal drugs has once again picked up ahead of Lok Sabha polls. ‘Insaaf’, an NGO, has started organising roadshows in different constituencies, pitching for legalisation of poppy farming as a way out of the synthetic drug menace.

Jagmeet Singh Jagga, president of ‘Insaaf’, said, “We started this movement last year itself by organising rallies in Chhapar Mela, Muktsar, Patiala, Bathinda and even at Maghi Mela this year. The idea was to mobilise people for this issue as we are of the opinion that opium and poppy husk are non-lethal compared to heroin, cocaine, smack etc. Our idea has been accepted well by Patiala MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi as well and now even Sukhpal Khaira, chairperson of Punjabi Ekta Party (PEP) has supported us.

“We want candidates to take up the issue of getting poppy farming legalised so farmers can earn good income and even Punjab can come out of the addiction problem due to synthetic drugs.”

After the announcement of poll dates, an ‘Insaaf’ team has organised road shows in Jagraon, Abohar, Muktsar Malaut and even has plans to cover more areas in the coming days before polls.

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Dr Dharamvira Gandhi had also been seen in many of Insaaf’s rallies last year. “I fully support the NGO and this is a poll issue for me. I already took up the matter with Punjab CM last year as well and will continue my efforts. I had raised the issue in Parliament during my term as MP. I am for de-classification of lethal and non-lethal drugs which have been mentioned in the same category in the NDPS Act. I know a number of persons who had been consuming poppy husk for years together and nothing happened to them. No one dies of traditional drugs like opium and poppy husk while drug deaths which are being reported these days are due to synthetic drugs. So I fully support the people who are demanding poppy farming. However I am of the view that it should be done in a controlled manner under government supervision and people should be given poppy husk or opium as substitute drug to addicts under medical supervision in a controlled manner to make them get rid of synthetic drugs.”

PEP President Sukhpal Khaira said, “I am fully convinced with the views of Dr Gandhi and Insaaf. We will try our best to raise this issue before the government if we are voted to power.”

Joga Singh, a farmer from Mansa said, “I had put up posters in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally when he had come to Malaut in July last year asking him to allow poppy farming. I am also part of this NGO and take part in road shows.”

Insaaf’s Jagga said, “The politicians who will support us will also get support in the form of votes in Lok Sabha…”

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