Punjab’s Drug menace

DEC 29

Mains   > Security   >   Border area management   >   Women and Child issues

IN NEWS:

  • The COVID pandemic and lockdown has bolstered drug addicts’ enrolment at outpatient opioid assisted treatment clinics in Punjab.

PUNJAB AND DRUG MENACE:

  • Abuse of psychotropic drugs has been Punjab’s scourge for over two decades. Today, drug consumption in Punjab is three times the national average.
  • In an affidavit to the High Court in 2009, the Punjab government had admitted that at least one male member of two-third households of rural Punjab was addicted to drugs.

                              

WHY IT IS SEVERE IN PUNJAB:

  • Proximity to golden crescent: The state, which shares a 553-km border with Pakistan, is a destination as well as a transit point for global opiate drug smuggling from Afghanistan.
  • Easy availability: Due to weak law enforcement, drug peddling is rampant in the state. For those who can't afford to have drugs, cheap liquor brewed locally is available in every nook and corner.
  • External state actors: Pak-backed organised crime syndicates have a lucrative business in drug trafficking.
  • Over the counter sale: Medications sold over the counter is amongst the most commonly abused drugs in Punjab.
  • Local support: Security officers say smugglers often get support from locals, like farmers located near the borders.
  • P-P-P Nexus: The Police-Politician-Peddler nexus is an open secret in Punjab. Employees of the Punjab police and other security forces are often arrested for their involvement in the drug trade.
  • Legal loopholes: According to the present provisions of the NDPS Act, a seizure of less than five grams of heroin can lead to smaller imprisonment and fines. Moreover, the suspect can easily secure bail. In order to take advantage of the legal loopholes, most of the trafficking takes place in small quantities.
  • Stagnant economic growth: Agriculture, which brought the state its wealth, is stagnating and with little industrialisation there is high unemployment. Hence, frustrated population, especially youth are getting easily attracted to drug abuse.
  • Social factors: The disintegration of the old joint family system, absence of parental love and care in modern families, decline of old religious and moral values etc. lead to a rise in the number of drug addicts who take drugs to escape hard realities of life.
  • Glorification of drug use: Popular media, like Bollywood movies, glorify the use of psychotropic drugs, which further attracts youth into trying them.

CONCERNS:

  • Law and order issue: Addicts resort to crime to pay for their drugs. Drugs remove inhibition and impair judgment egging one on to commit offences. Incidences of teasing, group clashes, assault and impulsive murders increase with drug abuse.
  • Human rights violation: Rampant irregularities and torture of inmates are prevalent at the de-addiction centres. The right of basic human dignity of persons desperately in need of care and treatment is being violated with impunity.
  • On women: Studies have shown that drug abuse among women is also on the rise. But due to social stigma, state of denial and lack of exclusive facilities, women are not seeking help and often fall victim to sexual abuses and threat to life.
  • On youth: The problem of drug abuse in youth of Punjab is a matter of serious concern as every third person is hooked to drugs other than alcohol and tobacco. This leads to them becoming a demographic burden.
  • On economic security: Drug cartels, with the support of external state actors are smuggling huge volume of drugs into India so as to threaten the country’s financial security, which amounts to a terror act.

Maqboolpura: The village of widows

One of the worst affected areas of the crisis is Maqboolpura, on the edge of Amritsar. So many of its men have died or deserted their families after becoming addicted that it has become notorious for being "the village of widows". The small locality of about 25,000 residents, who settled here primarily as refugees immediately after the Partition, is known as the Village of Widows and Orphans owing to the deaths of more than 400 people, (most of them alleged addicts) since 1999.

GOVERNMENT EFFORTS:

  • The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is the nodal Ministry for drug demand reduction.
  • Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985
    • Defines the various narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
    • Lays out the Prohibition, Control and Regulation of the previously mentioned substances.
    • Sets the guidelines for the Central government to appoint
      1. Narcotics Commissioner
      2. Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Consultative Committee
      3. National Fund for Control of Drug Abuse
    • Describes the punishment duration for various possible crimes that can be tried under this Act.
  • Narco-Coordination Centre (NCORD) under Ministry of Home Affairs is tasked with combating drug trafficking and the use of illegal substances under the provisions of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
  • Nasha mukt Bharat:
    • Annual Action Plan for 2020-21 would focus on 272 most affected districts.
    • It is a three-pronged attack combining efforts of Narcotics Bureau, Outreach/Awareness by Social Justice and Treatment through the Health Dept.
  • International cooperation: For effective coordination with foreign countries, India has signed 37 Bilateral Agreements/Memoranda of Understanding.
  • State government efforts: Punjab and Haryana governments are undertaking efforts to reduce supply, demand and consumption of drugs. This includes Special Task Force (STF) in Punjab, border patrols by security forces and police, opioid assisted treatment clinics and other rehabilitation facilities.
  • Technological efforts: Modern technological innovations such as Night Vision Devises, Hand-Held Thermal Imagers, Battle Field Surveillance Radars, Long Range Finders and High-Powered Telescopes are being used along the borders.

“Mera Pind-Mera Maan”:

Mansa district in the State is deploying youth energy to prevent idle time and potential addiction. They run campaigns on single-use plastics, stubble burning, tree planting, road safety, and against drugs. The motto: ‘mera pind-mera maan’ (my village, my pride). As a result of the youth’s efforts, 70% of people here today use cloth bags, stubble burning in the village is down by 60%, the streets are clean and green, and the walls shout out positive messages.

WAY FORWARD:

Supply side:

  • Create a Joint institutional mechanism where the state police, BSF, DRI, NCB, Intelligence Bureau and other important agencies are represented. This joint platform will help in better coordination among various agencies, creating synergy and avoiding overlap in operations.
  • Improvement of security infrastructure and surveillance capability at India-Pakistan border should be accorded priority.
  • The Central and state governments should develop ways of providing additional focus on anti-corruption measures, the modernisation of the police as well as judiciary.
  • The government can think of recruitment of ‘Border Volunteers’ from the border villages , as this practice has proved successful in many crime infested areas.

Demand side:

  • Community policing can play a meaningful role in building partnerships with parents and community leaders to become mentors for the prevention and treatment of drug abuse.
  • The government should encourage sports and other recreational facilities for youth, so that they can focus on healthy and productive ways of spending their free time.
  • Regular assessment and feedback of ground realities of the anti-drug drive.

PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q. The bane of drug abuse in Punjab has acquired the proportions of a pestilence that it threatens to shake the entire internal security of the country. Discuss the reasons of severe drug menace in Punjab. What measures have the government taken to address the issue?