India said it was exploring all legal options and would take up the verdict with the authorities concerned.
In a bid to tackle the complex and critical drug problem in the state, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced on Monday his government’s decision to recommend death penalty for those involved in narcotics trade.
“My government has decided to recommend the death penalty for drug peddling/smuggling. The recommendation is being forwarded to the Union government,” the Congress leader said in a statement.
Singh said that the drug problem in the state is destroying “entire generations” and thus requires “exemplary punishment”.
“Since drug peddling is destroying entire generations, it deserves exemplary punishment. I stand by my commitment for a drug free Punjab,” he said.
The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting on Monday held to review the progress of the investigations and discuss ways and means of countering the menace.
The Cabinet also decided to constitute a special Working Group under the chairmanship of additional chief secretary (ACS) home NS Kalsi to review and monitor, on a day-to-day basis, the action being taken to check and control drug abuse.
The special Working Group constituted to review and update the government strategy against drugs will have ACS (health) Satish Chandra, Director General of Police (DGP) law and order Ishwar Singh, DGP (intelligence) Dinkar Gupta and additional DGP (Special Task Force) HS Sidhu as members, an official spokesperson disclosed after the meeting.
A cabinet sub-committee has also been formed under the chairmanship of the CM, with the special Working Group mandated to report directly to it.
Health and family welfare minister and social security minister have been appointed members of the sub-committee, which will meet once a week to take stock of the situation and review the progress of the anti-drug campaign of the government, an official spokesperson said.
Ever since he came to power, Singh has been under relentless criticism over the drug menace in Punjab. In the run up to the assembly elections last year, Singh had told the electorate that he will eliminate drugs from the state within weeks of coming to power.
According to reports, 23 people have died in the state in the month of June due to drugs abuse and drugs overdose.
On Friday, Punjab Director General of Police (DGP) Suresh Arora issued strict directives to the field police officers to crack down on the activities of gangsters and drug smugglers. The DGP told the police officers that they would be held accountable for any drug smuggling in their areas.
SAD declares war on drugs
Opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) have previously accused the Amarinder government of doing nothing to contain the drugs racket in the state.
The Akali Dal said that time has come for a comprehensive war on drugs by all Punjabis rising above political affiliations to fight a common enemy.
The SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal said this is no time for playing politics and the Akali Dal will not fall to the temptation to take political advantage out of the government’s total failure to live up to its promise to tackle the drug menace in four weeks.
Badal said that he would also appeal to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee to launch a massive religious drive against the drug menace in the light of the teachings of the sacred Gurbani. The SAD president said his party’s conduct is inspired by the ideals laid by great Sikh gurus who taught to join hands whenever the society faces a serious challenge.
“As a responsible political party committed to the goals and ideals laid down before us by the great Gurus, the SAD is fully alive to its sacred responsibility to serve the people of Punjab constructively. We will discharge this responsibility most conscientiously to save our youth from the spectre of drugs,” he said in a statement.
Badal said that his party will offer full support and constructive cooperation to any efforts by the government to weed out the drug menace from the state.
“Let us all rise above petty egos or vested political stakes and unitedly and decisively confront and defeat this menace,” he appealed to the people of Punjab.
The Akali president further said that unfortunately, just before and during the last elections, some political parties in Punjab had thought it fit to take political mileage out of the drug issue.
Badal, however, said that it is time to put the past behind us and move forward united in our common resolve to save Punjab’s youth.