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Drowned in poppy husk

Drowned in poppy husk
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In Punjab, drug addiction amongst the youth is a palpable social malaise. Shocking statistics show that 67 per cent of the rural households in the state have at least one drug addict, according to data released by the Department of Social Security Development of Women and Children. Every year nearly 1,000 patient walk into drug de-addiction centres, while 500 patients are registered at OPD in PGIMER-Chandigarh. The ‘Food Basket’ of the country is battling with the addiction of poppy husk, smack, cocaine, bhang, opium, Mandrox/cough Syrup (Corex) and injectable substances like fortwin and morphine.

The menace looms large. The extent of drug abuse in Punjab is frightening. Household surveys in different regions of Punjab have shown that addiction to mind-altering substances was confined to a great extent to the Doaba region, with 68.6 per cent of the households reporting a drug addict. In Majha comparatively the least number of households acknowledged that any person(s) were substance abusers, with a return of  64.69 per cent. However, there was a variation in the type of drugs used in the regions. While opium was most imbibed in Majha, in Doaba  synthetic drugs and pills were mostly taken among the sampled drug abuser population.

A Variation in the above trend was exhibited in alcohol consumption where households in Majha have the highest alcohol consumption (58.10 per cent) and Malwa the least. Increasing seizures in recent months in Punjab are a pointer that the state, especially its youth, are on a new and dangerous drugs.

A lot of the trafficking happens across the international border with smugglers in Pakistan using plastic pipes to push heroin packets across the electrified fence or even flinging wrapped packets across the frontier. It is no longer a question of a village or a region getting ruined. The whole state is under the stranglehold of this death trap, informs a ruling party MLA in Gurdaspur, an area near Pakistan border.

The increase in the number of patients at the Drug De-addiction Centre, PGIMER, Chandigarh, is alarming, as the institute gets 1,000 patients at walk-in clinics every year, while 500 patients are registered at the OPD. Nearly 250 addicts are treated as in-patients. ‘Drug addiction is a chain reaction. One person ropes in others,’ Debasish Basu, professor, Drug De-addiction Centre at PGIMER (Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research), Chandigarh, recently said in a media report recently.

These drugs are  easily available.  Rajesh Maan, a 35-year-old social activist who has been working for an anti-drugs campaign in Jalandhar explains, ‘The youth get lured into the world of drugs by first tasting bhuki, which grows like wild grass and is freely  available in the fields or they take to gutka or tobacco pouches. The problem is of epidemic proportions in the rural areas where unemployment is rampant. An entire generation is as good as destroyed. Not a single village is without its score of drug addicts.’

Mann goes on to say that once they are  hooked, these young men graduate to cough syrups like Phensydril and Corex, Proxyvon, Dormant 10, Diszepham tablets. From this stage they proceed to more potent menu of opium, charas, ganja, mandrax, smack, heroin, lizards’ tails and many more substances like quaint application of shoe polish, smelling petrol and consuming iodex spread on bread to get that heady feeling.

While Donald Banerjee, a veteran journalist in Chandigarh, feels  that geography plays a vital role in the drug supply. Border areas adjoining Pakistan and some districts of Punjab  such as Muktsar, Bhatinda and Ferozepur are more vulnerable, with an adjoining border with Rajasthan, where several drugs are cultivated.

From a healthy to an intoxicated state, Punjab, once known for its youthful power and valour, has now turned into an state riddled with drug addiction. With dwindling number of participators in sports and army, all eyes have turned to the neighbouring state Haryana. More wrestlers and boxers are coming from Haryana than few kabaddi and hockey players from Punjab.

‘Yes, this change is horrifying for the state and I think the main cause lies in our society,’ believes Pargat Singh, a former hockey Olympian, Punjab sports director and now a ruling party MLA from Jalandhar Cantt.

‘We in Punjab are victim of a feeling that we have been left behind and whole world has gone ahead. The youth are getting frustrated and their inability to cope up with this has caused a sense of disillusionment. While farmers are losing their land hold gradually, a lack of employment options has also added to the problem’, he added. ‘The craze to settle in abroad has proved damaging for the state as youth are doing all this to adopt western lifestyle’, he said.

Gurmangal Dass is the head of Youth Football Club (YFC) in Rurka Kalan village in Jalandhar. He runs a multi-crore project to promote football and other sports in the region, in order to take youngsters away from drugs and engage them in sports. He said, ‘ Young ones don’t have anything to do. They are not getting proper education at school/ colleges and same is at home. So they are more prone to taking up drugs. Our effort is to take those youngsters to playground and engage them with more dreams in life.’  Drug addiction has become such a deep rooted problem that leaders from various political parties and other influential people are found to have indulged in drug dealing. Recently, SAD MP Ratan Singh Ajnala (Khadoor Sahib) and his MLA son Amarpal Singh Bony (Ajnala) were allegedly involved in the racket.

However, Gurmangal is hopeful. ‘We can’t be pessimist and can’t stop working. We can’t solely depend on the administrative actions and need of the hour is to channelise youth’s energy in the right direction’.
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