Bathinda nominees reluctant to address rampant drug abuse : The Tribune India

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Bathinda nominees reluctant to address rampant drug abuse

Bathinda nominees reluctant to address rampant drug abuse

SAD candidate from Bathinda Harsimrat Badal consoles an elderly woman during campaigning in Bathinda.



Ruchika M Khanna & Sukhmeet Bhasin

Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 18

Three decades ago Bathinda was considered as the hinterland of the state. Over the years, the topography of the area has changed completely… swanky new houses, shopping malls, visa facilitation and IELTS centres, cafes and good educational institutes speak volumes about the economic prosperity of the town. But now the addiction of many of its youth to ‘chitta’ (heroin) has seen a surge.

An old woman asks AAP candidate Gurmeet Khuddian to legalise cultivation of opium, at Maur Kalan village in Bathinda district. File

Drug abuse due to easy availability of intoxicants and increase in crimes committed by drug addicts in Bathinda parliamentary constituency is becoming a major poll issue here.

Travelling across the length and breadth of this dusty constituency, one cannot find a village or town that has not suffered from the scourge of drugs. In fact, the number of defunct power transformers in villages of Mansa, mainly around Bhikhi, Budhlada and Maur, are symbols of how parts of these have been stolen by addicts to sell to scrap dealers and get money to buy drugs.

Surprisingly, while the issue is openly discussed by the electorate, the candidates in the election fray here seem reluctant to address the issue or make political statements on it. They seem as uninterested as the local administration, which was beseeched by the residents of this constituency twice to act against drug dealers, by putting up posters on the Mini Secretariat Road in Bathinda recently and at Bhai Bhaktaur village near Maur earlier, saying that “Ithe chitta vikda hai”.

Kala Ram, a daily wager in Bhikhi town, told The Tribune that no one in the villages of the area venture out after dark. “The area is full of drug addicts. People fear venturing out after dark as they snatch the vehicles. You can find out from the police station about the surge in number of two-wheeler thefts/snatchings. We are so scared that we just give them what they ask, without resistance, for fear of incurring physical harm,” he said.

It’s not that the contestants in the fray are unaware of the problem, but maybe it does not suit their political discourse to address the issue now.

State Agriculture Minister and AAP candidate from Bathinda Gurmeet Singh Khuddian during his campaign recently was stopped by a woman at Maur Kalan village. The woman rued that her son was a drug addict and asked her for money daily to buy his dose of ‘chitta’. She pleaded that the government legalise poppy husk and opium cultivation in the state, so that other family members of these addicts do not have to suffer. Khuddian asked the woman to keep her son at home and get his de-addiction treatment done.

Similarly, SAD candidate from Bathinda Lok Sabha seat Harsimrat Kaur Badal recently reached Faridkot Kotli village during her campaign, where an elderly woman hugged her and started crying. She told Harsimrat that her two sons who were kabaddi players have died due to drug overdose, but the police were not able to stop the drug supply.

Interestingly, almost 70-odd anti-drug committees had been formed in the villages of Bathinda to keep a check on those selling drugs. These would hold ‘thikri pehra’ to ensure that no drug suppliers enter the village, but some of these have stopped functioning. After anti-drug crusader Parvinder Singh Jhota, who started “Nasha Roko, Rozgar Do” campaign in villages of Mansa, similar committees were formed at village level in Bathinda and Mansa. It is another matter that he was arrested for harassing a chemist on charges of selling prescription drugs to addicts.

Mansa SSP Nanak Singh said the police were setting up special inter-state barricades to check smuggling of drugs. “We are very serious about curbing the menace and any intelligence input received about drug smuggling is followed and accused arrested. All drug hotspots have been identified and we are keeping a strict vigil,” he said.

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