Open House: Should the drug problem be a key issue ahead of assembly elections?

Country’s future at stake, time to address elephant in the room

Open House:  Should the drug problem be a key issue ahead of assembly elections?

BSF officers show heroin confiscated from Pakistan-based smuggler Shaukat Ali Khan near the Rajatal border outpost in Attari. Tribune file

Youngsters biggest victims of drug abuse

Punjab being a border state has a great inflow of drugs from neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan. Many elections in the past have seen a number of promises by politicians to curb the menace but very little has been done at the ground level. With the advent of drone technology, drug suppliers are finding new ways to transport drugs along the border. Drug problem should be a key issue for the elected representatives of the state as the most common target of the menace is the youth which is the future of our country. They should be pragmatic towards this issue and not just rely on words but show action this time so that this evil can be rooted-out from our society.

Jatinderpal Singh Batth

Enumerate steps in election manifesto

The drug problem should be a key issue ahead of elections. The menace has ruined lives of youths in Punjab. In the previous Assembly elections Captain Amarinder Singh had vowed to end the drug menace within 100 days of his coming to power but he did nothing concrete after assuming office. In fact, the menace has risen to alarming proportions year by year. All political parties should not only make it a key issue ahead of elections but also enumerate steps in their manifestos they would take to eradicate drug menace from Punjab forever.

Sanjay Chawla

Do not get swayed

away by freebies

In our state, democracy means government by the politicians, for the politicians but of course by the people. So, it is for the people to watch their interest. We see the nexus between politicians and the police but remain mute spectators. The nexus is responsible for drug menace, illegal sand trading, manipulated transportation system, cable, liquor, real estate business etc. The old saying “Sanyian bhaye kotwal to phir darr kahe ka” is relevant here as it is an open secret then both politician and general public are aware of the nexus. But here politician play their trump card by alluring the people with freebies and promoting their caste feelings. We do fall on their well planned trap. Why don’t we ask for employment opportunities, improvement in health, education and farm sectors, better roads and other infrastructure etc. Instead we are caught in a web of freebies; therefore politicians indulge in illegal trades to get easy money. Let people of the state vote for a party who instead of giving freebies commit people oriented government instead of politician oriented government.

Naresh Johar

Vote for those who talk about menace

For years, Punjab has always ranked highest for drug addiction among youths and elderly people. Prevalence of drug trade in the state has never been fixed by the government. Youth generation is said to be the future of the country, but the drug addiction is highest among the youths. Even though the people are aware of the side effects of the drugs but its usage causes its addiction which further leads to the severe loss of body and mind. Some of its side effects include heart or lung disease, cancer, mental illness, HIV/AIDs etc. Drug addiction is a brain disorder. Drug addicted people crave for drugs instead of foods, as they feel drugs as their basic requirement. From the political point of views, the government had never implemented strict rules for imposing ban on drugs. Government had never taken this issue seriously and thus fails to prevent drug trade in the state. The drug menace remains a favourite among the issues Punjab’s political parties like to bring up at election campaign but at the time of elections, political parties use drugs as a medium for getting votes by wooing electorates with liquor, cash, household benefits and drugs. So, how the citizens will believe in prevention of drug trade in a state from such a government who gave their priority to drugs and use it as a medium for getting votes? In the conclusion, citizens need to get more aware of the strategies of political parties and choose the right spokesperson that bring these issues to light and work for the welfare of society and the country.

SAM

Put tighter controls at int’l, state borders

During the previous SAD-BJP regime there was a shocking news report about constable posts. Many wannabe cops failed dope test across Punjab on Day 1 itself, in fact a drug addiction reality in Punjab was well exposed. First of all, it has to be established that why drug trade is flourishing in Punjab. We have to find the most important answer for the most crucial question of why the youth are taking to drugs. In our present education system churning out barely literate graduates, huge unemployment among the youth and lack of hope in future contribute to creating an environment where a quick relief from reality seems an attractive proposition. Extensive efforts are needed to improve the education and employability for the youth. Drug trade mafia exists as a joint venture of dealers, their political patrons. The Punjab Government should focus on cracking down on big suppliers. It ought to propose tighter controls at borders and also draw up a comprehensive health-based policy to deal with addiction. If the government is serious about tackling drug menace in the state, it should take strict steps in identifying the real causes of such addictions and in curbing the gangs that operate with impunity which points to very high-level patronage. It is also the right time for the government to persuade people to stop hushing up addiction as a social stigma and approach a de-addiction facility at the first sign of it.

LJ Singh

Lack of accountability reason behind spread

Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “The drink and the drug evil is in many respects infinitely worse than the evil caused by malaria and the like; for, whilst the latter only injure the body, the former saps both body and soul.” Punjab is the worst affected by the problem as on account of being a border state it has easy access to narcotics. The problem continues to rage despite claims of attempts on the part of various state and national-level regulatory bodies to rein it in. The increasing number of drug-related deaths and influx of patients in de-addiction centers testifies to the fact. The lack of accountability for its widespread prevalence in the state is another reason behind its growth. While the issue is often raised in the legislative assembly, it seems to have become a mere formality on the part of the legislators, who seem more interested in using it as a poll plank. The problem should definitely be a key issue ahead of the elections, but the voters should do some research to identify the candidates, who are determined to take stringent measures to uproot it, before casting their votes.

Shaheen P Parshad

Voters get carried away with promises

The drug problem has to be the most important issue besides unemployment, education, healthcare, exodus of youth to foreign nations, etc. Unfortunately, the drug problem was also a big issue during the past elections but nothing happened on the ground. People may be taken for a ride again if political outfits make tall promises to rid the state of the drug trade without any intent or capability to do so. But the moot question should be, do people in India, Punjab being no exception, vote with their real issues and pressing problems in mind? Sadly, the answer is no. Politicians have mastered the art of exploiting the gullible nature of voters by their divisive narratives. They offer freebies, raise catchy slogans, make alluring promises etc. to woo voters. People are not made to understand that freebies don’t add even a bit to their hopeless financial conditions and that a divided society impedes the financial progress of all. Voters are unduly influenced by big money-powered mega rallies/roadshows. The innocent public gets carried away by charismatic personalities and their gifts of the gab. Until there are electoral reforms warranting legal action on false/unfulfilled promises/manifestos people’s issues will never be heard after the poll din is muted.

HL Sharma

false assurances made to attract voters

You see the drug menace in Punjab has been going on for decades. At present, every government fails to do anything on the issue. It seems as if they pump the problem every year, make a few changes or arrests during the election season and present the same reality but on a different plate, just in order to talk about it during the election season and use it as a ‘vote magnet’. Fake promises, fake hopes, fake plans, this seems to be the go-to strategy for every government which takes power when it comes to the drug issue. I absolutely believe the drug disease should be a major issue for the upcoming elections, not to attract and grab votes but to illuminate people about how devastating the situation is and why it needs to be curbed sooner. The problem shouldn’t only be talked about in meetings with the higher ups but the solutions need to be sent to the roots, from cities to districts to villages. Every country faces troubles with drugs but for the Punjab the situation seems worsened by criminals and politicians. It’s not about accountability now it’s about accomplishing an end to it.

Gurjas Singh

Successive govts failed to address the issue

When Chief Minister Channi was an independent legislator, he was vocal on the issue of drugs in the Assembly. At that period, the issue revolved around the selling of drugs by the chemists in the rural as well as urban areas. It was him, who had pointed out the raids on the chemists’ shops was just eyewash as the problem was widespread and had very deep roots. Later, just before the 2017 Assembly polls, former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh vowed that if voted to power, he would eliminate the drug menace but nothing happened on the ground. All STFs, SITs etc. have so far not yielded the desired results of end of this killing menace. Rather the volume of seizures of intoxicants like heroin etc has exponentially increased over the period. No big fish has been apprehended so far and some years back one DGP had reportedly said that no big fish was involved in drugs trade. The successive regimes have miserably failed to control the evil and the efforts never moved beyond sloganeering and full-page ads in newspapers. In the coming days, the prospective legislators and leaders may fear to say that they would break the back of the drugs business as they fully know that they are not capable of doing so. They may try to make this as non issue. People should be prepared to be colossally cheated, once again, and more.

Hardish Sandhu

Politicians must

stop patronising it

Smuggling from across our borders, particularly from Pakistan, is not a new issue. It is an old, perennial problem although the materials to be smuggled are now different. Earlier, gold was smuggled, now, for about three decades, heroin grown and processed in Afghanistan and targeted for western countries is the narcotic of choice for those involved in this illicit business. It is a business for growers and transporters and believe it or not, only about 10 per cent of cases get nabbed. The rest reaches Europe and America and fetches humongous prices. There is no end to the modes and methods used by smugglers who have links with the authorities meant to catch them. Punjab’s problem is the quantity that is leaked, sold and actually consumed by young men or even women, particularly in the border belt. Thousands of Punjabi households have been ruined, relationships shattered and economy affected. The problem is compounded by the state government’s dependence on the liquor mafia. Thus, if you drink more, you are helping in running the government. Surprisingly, a unique dimension of the drugs smuggled into India is the tacit involvement of government across the border, because now these drugs are just dropped from drones, huge army drones. Why the drones choose only Punjab? The problem therefore has acquired a political interface too. In such circumstances, it is difficult to pin point accountability.

Mohan Singh

Political parties don’t practise what they preach

  • Punjab has been plagued with drug menace for long. The scourge of rampant drug abuse took the centre stage in the 2017 Assembly poll in the state. Congress made abolition of drug addiction/abuse and drug mafia one of its poll planks. It did some appreciable work in that direction but it disastrously failed to fight conclusively against the drug menace which till date has proved to be an insurmountable gargantuan monster.
  • The crux of the problem is that the parties’ don’t practice what they preach. Therefore, drug problem should be a key issue ahead of elections in the light of recent seizures in the state.  Once bitten twice shy, Congress may again make it an issue in the coming elections but nothing can be said of Akalis and the AAP. 
  • According to AIIMS, Delhi, Punjab is among the top five states with the highest prevalence of substance abuse. Though the drug menace is a complicated problem with no quick-fix solutions yet it should not be dropped off the political radar. Corrupt politicians and the police are complicit in flourishing drug business that afflicts the youth of the state.— Tarsem S  Bumrah 

QUESTION

With the next Assembly elections approaching near, the ruling and the opposition parties have started luring the electorate with freebies. Should the sops or good governance be the priority for seeking votes?

Suggestions in not more than 200 words can be sent to amritsardesk@tribunemail.com by Thursday (October 14)

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