Punjab drug scene hits a new ‘high’

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS
Monday, November 22, 2010

CHANDIGARH - It is one of the most prosperous states of India and produces the bulk of the country’s foodgrain, but Punjab may soon take the lead in a dubious field - narcotics. Police have seized hundreds of kilograms of drugs in the first seven months of the year, the highest in the country.

The recovery included 160 kg of heroin, valued at nearly Rs.200 crore in the international market, 50,000 kg of poppy husk, 455 kg of opium, 23 kg of smack, 800 gm of cocaine, 44.5 kg of charas and 351 kg of ganja.

The haul also included 148 kg of bhang, 11 kg of sulpha, over 700,000 tablets of intoxicating drugs, 160 kg synthetic powder, over 22,000 bottles of illegal liquor and nearly 26,000 injections.

“It is a matter of great concern that such a huge haul was made,” a concerned Punjab Director General of Police P.S. Gill said here.

Senior police officials say drug abuse was rampant in the state, and was on the rise in the last decade.

With just 1.5 percent of the country’s geographical area, the frontier state contributes over 60 percent of India’s total foodgrain production.

It also shares a 553-km barbed-wire fenced international border with Pakistan, from where most of the drugs arrive.

The consignments arrive from Pakistan and Afghanistan, police officials told IANS.

Drugs worth over Rs.2,000 crore (Rs. 20 billion)could be transiting and landing in Punjab, sources in the police department told IANS, adding that drugs worth over Rs.800 crore have been seized in the past two years.

The actual seizure of drugs is much higher, with agencies like Border Security Force (BSF), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, customs department, Anti-Narcotics cell and others too seizing huge quantities.

Gill said over 4,000 people have been arrested, and nearly 1,500 people convicted under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985.

“We have started a campaign to make youth aware of the harmful effects of drugs. Drying up the demand for narcotics is the best method to check their smuggling,” he said.

Under the multi-disciplinary campaign, drug addicts and criminals were identified by police. After receiving consent from their families, the addicts were made to undergo a rehabilitation programme. Counsellors and even religious leaders are called for the programme.

Recently, Punjab Police constituted an Anti-Narcotic Task Force (ANTF) to counter the menace. With drugs seizures on the rise, ANTF has decided to install incinerators to destroy the narcotics without causing pollution.

In 2009, drugs seized by police and other agencies included nearly 600 kg of heroin, 400 kg of hashish, 350 kg of marijuana, nearly 3,000 kg of opium and a whopping 373 tonnes of poppy husk.

Researchers at Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar in a survey found that 73.5 percent of the Punjabi youth, between 16 and 35 years, surveyed were addicted to drugs.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

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