Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Chandigarh, March 22
Pointing out the gravity of the menace of drug addiction in Punjab, Health Minister Dr Balbir Singh today told the Vidhan Sabha that the state had nearly 10 lakh addicts. The figure is nearly 3 per cent of the total 3.17 crore population of the state.
The agenda item, “War of Punjab against Drugs/Narcotics” was deferred by Speaker Kultar Singh Sandhwan towards the end of the session. He, however, asked the minister to brief the House about the seriousness of the issue for deliberations later.
Dr Balbir Singh said, “Nearly 2.62 lakh addicts are undergoing treatment at government de-addiction centres, while private rehabs are home to at least 6.12 lakh addicts. However, the actual number is far higher. Many, including intravenous drug users, do not come forward due to social stigma.” The minister said most rehabilitation centres fared badly when it came to follow-up of addicts after initial treatment due to which most patients relapsed. “The number of addicts is not coming down despite the state having 528 Outpatient Opioid Assisted Treatment (OOAT) centres, 36 government de-addiction centres, 185 private, 19 government rehabs and 74 private. Rather, the number of addicts is rising,” he said.
Dr Balbir Singh said reacting to the frightening figures of addicts flashed by a leader at a national-level event in 2014, the police filled Punjab jails with youngsters, many of whom were just misled addicts and not smugglers. “They were sick and not criminals. Jails became overcrowded. This led many to join the world of crime,” he claimed. He said “Our government is working on ways to reform the youth.”
2.62L addicts at govt rehab centres
6.12L in private centres
Actual figure higher
The actual figure is far higher. Many don’t come forward due to social stigma. — Dr Balbir Singh, Health Minister
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