By Mayank Jain:
‘A 12 year old sits on a rough patch of barren land and offers hashish and opium. His phone rings incessantly and he proclaims that he earns a lot every month by selling drugs and playing cards. He is a heroin addict and finances himself by peddling it all day in the slums and townships of the city of Golden Temple.’
This is a chilling prelude to the menace ofÂ drug addiction in Punjab. Once touted to be the harbinger of economic growth for India, the state has gone to ashes with infamy for witnessing a ‘drug hurricane’. Numbers aren’t stable, available or much cared for in India’s only state with a Sikh majority but a study has pointed that more than two thirds of the families have at least one drug addict.
Kids as young as 10 start with smoking, move up the ladder with alcohol and in their later teens, drugs like marijuana become the gateway to bigger and more intensive ones including meth, ice and heroin for those who can afford it. Those who cannot afford them just as yet, take to illegally produced medicinal injections or cheap medicines and start peddling or enter the trade in some way and make easy money since ‘good quality’ heroin sells for as much as â‚¹2500 a gram.
The state has found itself in a grip of the ‘drug hurricane’ right now as the dividends of green revolution of the 1970s now accrue to many families, and kids spoilt from their childhood take to newer means of ‘recreation’ by procuring the highest ‘quality’ drugs from the priciest of places. On the other hand, the poorer farmer is not far behind as he toils hard on the same field for days only to find himself still unable to afford food. He seeks an escape and turns to ‘bhukki’ or poppy husk which he thinks helps him work for longer hours and keeps him from gloom in his evenings.
The drug problem is not just a social characteristic, as alcoholism has always been a big part of the state’s 24 hour celebrations culture, but points towards a deeper void in the lives of the youth who are easily lured into drug abuse as well as peddling which becomes a source of hard cash with lesser toil. There have been studies about betting and gambling on the rise as cities slowly go to sleep and the youth come out of their homes in the fields and bars to make a quick buck.
The source of these drugs is majorly the Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran belt which is also known as the Golden Crescent region. The region has a history of production and exporting all varieties of drugs, and Punjab happens to fall in the transit route which makes it easy for the peddlers and addicts to get their hands on them. There have been attempts to tighten border security and prevent trade but it pushed heroin prices up and also increased the sale of over the counter drugs which give a similar ‘euphoric’ sensation.
The hands of authorities are tied if the cases aren’t reported and Punjab’s drug problem brings with it the social stigma of accepting the drug addiction as a problem and seeking solutions for it. The Punjab Child Rights Commission voices the same concern, “The problem of drug and liquor abuse is on the rise in Punjab. There are bound to be social implications. But there is a social stigma attached to sexual abuse.
“When the father is an abuser, it becomes a bigger taboo. They also fear furtherÂ victimizationÂ by the police. Our commission can refer theÂ matter to the police only when we get a complaint. We cannot intrude into the private space of families unwilling to do so,” says PCRC chairman Swaran Salaria.
Things have been brushed under the carpet for too long in the hope of change to happen on its own but the situation has only worsened with political push given to drug trade in recent elections by the politicians to finance their campaigns and police becoming a puppet in their hands. However, their efforts at nabbing illegal traffickers can’t be undermined. The World Day Against Drug Abuse And Illegal Trafficking is the perfect opportunity for us to take notice of the problem and acknowledge its far reaching effects and then start building the political will to end this at once and for all. Open debate and mainstream discourse cannot be underestimated in an issue as critical and as sensitive as this.
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