NEARLY 1,400 kg of heroin has been seized across Punjab in the past 14 months. For the state government, it’s a vindication of sorts that there is no lack of seriousness in tackling the drug menace. Stringent law enforcement, public contact programmes and ensuring a reduction in demand are showing encouraging results. There would also be the realisation of the enormity of the task at hand. While curbing the prevalence of drug abuse is a serious challenge, a bigger one is the significant rise in cross-border smuggling and production of synthetic drugs. Amid claims of all-out operations against street peddlers and suppliers, fresh plans are afoot to root out the menace. Decriminalising addiction is an experiment worth trying. A critical assessment of the proposal would be in order too.
Section 64(A) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act provides immunity from prosecution to addicts who voluntarily seek treatment from a facility maintained or recognised by the government. The decision not to penalise those caught with small amounts of narcotics and instead send them to de-addiction centres marks a shift in Punjab’s strategy. Following a spate of deaths due to drug overdose, every such death will now be under the scanner. A drug supplier will be charged for culpable homicide in case an addict dies of overdose. Keenly watched would be the promised action against police personnel if big drug smugglers manage to get bail because of their failure to file a chargesheet in time.
Police teams have been told to hold meetings in specific rural and urban areas to sensitise people about the ill-effects of drugs. Efforts are on to rope in school and college students as well as NGOs. Community participation will be encouraged to identify users, not to name and shame them, but to rehabilitate them with the help of micro-loans and skill-based activities.
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