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Tribune Exclusive
Elections come to the rescue of drug peddlers
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 28
Acting on The Tribune report about a municipal councillor allgedly acting as a drug peddler, Batala police today formed a special cell headed by a DSP to deal with drug-related crimes. The Batala, SSP Dr Naresh Arora, said that in a late night operation yesterday police had nabbed a peddler and recovered 500 grams of narcotic powder and 500 vials of injectible drug.

The powder and the vials were hidden in an underground pit in the courtyard, said Dinesh Kumar, the drug inspector posted at Gurdaspur, who had accompanied the police team during the raid.

The SSP claimed that the narcotics recovered yesterday amounted to a single dose for as many as 7,500 drug addicts. During the past three months, he added, 25 drug peddlers were arrested in Batala and the recovered narcotics would have been sufficient as a single dose for 25,000 addicts.

But, significantly, no action has yet been taken against the councillor despite Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal ordering an inquiry into drug peddling in Batala. The authorities, in private conversations, sought to justify their inaction by claiming that The Tribune report would have alerted the councillor and other peddlers and that raids at this point would yield little or nothing.

A senior officer of the district even defended the councillor by saying that she was ‘innocent’ and that she was forced to supply drugs by the mafia. The Tribune team, however, had been specifically directed to the residence of the councillor, located in a slum in Batala, where the team was assured narcotics would be available for a price. And indeed, people at the councillor’s house declared that while smack was not available in the stock, other narcotics were there for sale. The team was also directed to other sources for purchase of smack.

Residents of Batala are shocked and outraged at the police inaction. “It is widely known that this lady uses her house as a selling point for drugs, narcotics and intoxicants,” said an old resident, “but no action is taken because she is politically well connected and, moreover, everybody who matters seems to get a share of the pie.”

This was corroborated by supposedly ‘well-meaning’ officials who told The Tribune that action would be taken against the councillor but only after the election. The lady was with the Congress till a few months ago but has switched her loyalty to the BJP, judging by the party flag that flutters atop her house.

Administrative and police action against drug peddlers here is deemed too little by citizens. While it is entirely possible that the councillor in question is a ‘small fry’ and a retail trader of drugs, the police is clearly reluctant to go after the smugglers and wholesale traders patronised by the rich and the powerful. This appears to be a fair assessment because of what a senior district officer had to tell The Tribune.

“Conducting raids by local police is not a very good idea,” he said, “ if the government is looking for results.” Police from other districts need to be involved, he added.

The Project Director of the Red Cross Drug De-addiction Centre in Batala had , in a confidential communication to the IG (Border Range), named five of the well-known peddlers in Batala. The list, sent in July, 2007, included the name of the councillor as well as four others.

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