Awash in drugs: Punjab voters may reject Badals in 2017 to save the young from ecstasy

Grief is writ in bold on the visage of women like Navneet Kaur, 41, of Maqdoompur who lost her husband to drugs a year ago. Her husband first got hooked to opium and then graduated to heroine. When the family stopped giving him money, he started selling his blood to buy drugs.

“One day, he was caught by the blood bank staff who noticed his pale face, dark eyes and hundreds of syringe marks on his arm. So, we put him into an addiction centre where they tried methadone therapy on him. But he ran away and ultimately died of a deadly cocktail of pharmaceutical drugs,” Kaur says.

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This is the story of almost every household in rural Punjab.

A troubled past

Former cop Singh says Punjab was always prone to addiction. “Punjab became the transit route for drugs sometime around 300 BC. Since it fell on the Silk Route, like all other merchandise, opiates also landed first in Punjab,” he says.

Many other factors contributed to their proliferation, Singh says. “When the invaders came from Central Asia, they brought large population of people addicted to opium. Later, when militancy gained ground, terrorists attacked liquor shops and drinkers, so injecting drugs bought illegally became safer,” he explains.

Soon, the number of addicts became so big that dealing in drugs became a lucrative business. In 2007, the intelligence department had compiled a four-page list of the drug barons of Punjab. This list had names of powerful politicians from every political party and police officials at every level. For some mysterious reason, the list has disappeared from official records.

The 2017 Vidhan Sabha elections could be a decisive moment in Punjab’s struggle with drugs. Ten years of SAD-BJP rule has convinced voters that it would be fatuous to expect a solution till the Badals are in power. There is growing conviction within the state that Punjab’s first family will never disturb the cartels responsible for running drugs in the state.

Though the Congress under Captain Amarinder Singh has vowed to deal with the promise, its pledge is seen with a lot of scepticism because of its failure in the past. Though the Akalis are rarely taken seriously these days, not many disagree when their leaders say the roots of the problem lie in the post-militancy era, when the Congress was in power.

Kejriwal’s AAP could benefit from this distrust of the established parties and desperation for a solution, provided the party is able to rise above theatrics, slogans, vacuous dialogues, bickering and write a new script that imagines Punjab as the lush-green land of bhangra and tappe, not of the wails of drug widows.Drug_abuse380Reu1

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