In Punjab, the statistics are strikingly positive. The count of fires decreased from 83,002 in 2020 to 71,304 in 2021, further dropping to 49,922 in 2022, and significantly declining to 36,663 in 2023
Drugs are killing Punjab youth like a deadly virus. No surprise, pictures of youth – mostly in their twenties or less – lying dead in secluded places with self-administered overdose of drugs is routine and common in vernacular media in the state.
And despite the Punjab Police’s “decisive war against drugs”, most of the wailing mothers blame ‘home delivery’ of drugs and the nexus of the authorities with drug peddlers for the menace in the border state.
As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)report, 272 deaths took place in Punjab due to drugs between 2017 and 2021. The figure has crossed over 270 now since 2022.
As per the reports, as many as 222 deaths took place in the Malwa region of the state since January 2022 due to drugs. The highest number of such deaths, 56, have taken place in the border district Ferozepur, followed by Moga (47) and Bathinda (32).
The gravity of the situation can be gauged from the facts shared by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment report, which was tabled in the Parliament on 3 August.
This report said over 6,97,900 children in Punjab, aged between 10 and 17 years, are hooked to cannabis, opioids, sedatives, cocaine, amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), inhalants and hallucinogens.
This report put the estimated number of current drug users in Punjab among adults aged between 18 and 75 Years at about 66 lakh. Of these, 21.36 lakh hooked to opioids, 30.68 lakh are regular cannabis users, 9.93 lakh are on sedatives, 1.87 on inhalants, 1.5 lakh on cocaine, and 1.36 on stimulants.
For the record , Punjab Police have arrested as many as 16,360 drug smugglers including 2351 big fish since July 5, 2022. Besides 1,073.44 kilogram (kg) heroin, the police have recovered 797.14 kg opium, 902.13 kg ganja, 375.47 quintals of poppy husk, and 65.49 lakh pharma opioids from across the state in one year.
But the demand as well as the supply of drugs appears as high as ever with Pakistani drones dropping drugs in the state’s border almost on a daily basis.
As per the official figures, there are 2.62 lakh addicts in government-run de-addiction centres and 6.12 lakh addicts in privately-run centres.
Speaking to The Statesman, a senior health department officer associated with the de-addiction programme in Punjab said the number of drug addicts is going up due to lack of proper policy to deal with the drug menace.
“The government de-addiction centres have become like sarkari thekas (government vends for supplying drugs). The current policy is focussing on ‘harm reduction’ in drug addicts (by making them give up drugs and shift to prescribed medicines). So drug addicts are now simply turning up for their quota of drugs from the government and we just can’t say no to them even if the same is not helping them,” the officer told The Statesman.
“Nobody (addicts) is getting cured of drugs. I feel there is a competition between the government and the drug smugglers to get addicts hooked on their respective drugs. Nobody is bothered about curing drug addicts because it will take a big effort and setup. Nobody is treating the drug addicts,” he added.