In a bustling township of Punjab, a young girl is seen walking purposefully on the road while speaking with somebody on the mobile. She then stands in a corner and meets up with two boys on a motorcycle. There is a quick exchange of items and the motorcycle speeds off. The girl puts a small package in her bag and walks off very fast in the opposite direction, she hails an Auto and leaves the area. The girl has, just then, picked up a consignment of Chitta (a synthetic drug) for herself and her friends.
The foregoing is a scenario built to explain the proliferation of drugs in Punjab. Such rendezvous happen in every nook and corner of the state, be it in rural or in urban areas. Pharmaceutical Drugs are procured quite openly from some chemist shops run by unscrupulous people, the availability is informed to the consumers by word of mouth.
The youth of Punjab are today dealing with issues like lack of employment opportunities, bleak prospects for the future, boredom, family tensions, relationship tensions, peer pressure etc. An alarming offshoot is manifestation of drug dependency, particularly in the border areas of the state. Easy availability for drugs of various forms only adds to the problem.
The state has a thriving drug smuggling, manufacture and delivery system controlled by people within the state, outside of it and from across the border. As a result, drugs like opium, cannabis etc. are freely available. Then there are the medical opiates like cough syrup, neuro-toxic tablets etc. Finally those who are desperate indulge in intake of thinner, glue sticks etc.
Chitta is by far the most popular and most addictive drug being used in Punjab and causing the maximum damage. It is a form of adulterated heroin in which many other elements are added to increase potency and reduce the price. Its chemical name is Diacetylmorphine. It is basically a white foil which is lit up from below and the fumes are inhaled. It is said that a person gets addicted to the drug within a few days after which, the daily requirement is about two grams and the cost is INR 6000, enough to ruin any middle class family.
There is a common perception that all drugs in Punjab are coming from Pakistan and their availability is the result of porous borders. This is a fallacy. Chitta and pharmaceutical drugs are produced in Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. Heroin for the production of Chitta and other opiates is sourced from both from Golden Crescent through Punjab and J&K and also the Golden Triangle drug route that operates from Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. Chitta produced in Punjab is said to be more lethal than the Delhi and other versions.
It is very necessary for the internal manufacturing to be curtailed if an impact has to be made on the overall drug supply within the country and more so in Punjab. The urgency is guided by the fact that Chitta abuse is now gaining momentum in Haryana as well as Himachal Pradesh. J&K has been facing the challenge of drugs for a very long time.
In Pakistan the drug trade is controlled by its notorious spy agency the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Drugs are used for generating unimaginable profit that is converted into Narco-dollars and used to finance terrorist and disruptive activities in India, particularly in Punjab and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The drones that Pakistan is using from smuggling purposes are provided by China. China is also instrumental in introducing Methamphetamine and Pseudoephedrine in Punjab which are lethal drugs. It is quite apparent that the two inimical neighbours of India have joined hands in an attempt to weaken the social fabric of the border areas with proliferation of drug addiction.
The geographic location of the state also makes it an important passage for all drugs, such as smack and heroin. This makes the state a soft target for all kinds of addictions, affecting not only those who handle them for smuggling but the common people too.
Drugs are being smuggled to finance and nurture terrorism and disruption. Most of the terrorists behind the recent attacks in J&K were found to be under the influence of drugs, Pakistan proposes to create a similar structure in Punjab too. There is a need to reject all demands being made by some vested interests to allow passage of goods from the trade facilitation centres without proper checks. A clamp down on the internal supply conduits especially in relation to medical opiates is necessary; the drug controlling agencies of the state need to step up their monitoring and control activities with maximum punishment to offenders, more so the Chemist suppliers who, if found guilty of peddling medicines without proper prescriptions, should face suspension of their licenses and jail terms.
The number of de-addiction centres in the state has to be drastically increased especially so in the villages and remote areas where the menace is unchecked. Requisite training needs to be imparted to doctors manning the primary health centres, here the creation of Mohalla Clinics, which may not have expertise of handling drug abuse cases, may pose a major roadblock. There are so many facets of the problem like detoxification, relapse prevention, psychological counselling etc that need specialist intervention. Serious cases have to be transferred post-haste to centres that have advanced facilities.
People need to be sensitised about the ill effects of drugs. Families need to be educated to understand that there is a problem and there are means that should be tapped to deal with the same. A conscious effort has to be made to remove the stigma that comes with addiction. People have to be given the confidence that what is happening is essentially a medical problem that can be dealt with professionally.
It is a well known fact that, in the last few decades, there has been an alarming increase in drug abuse in Punjab. If this menace is not tackled on a war footing, it may destroy the mental health of the present generation resulting in numerous other social problems.
The people of Punjab have overcome problems far more dangerous and invidious than drug addiction. Given a direction they will garner the will to get over this problem also. What is important is creation of the necessary awareness to face the problem head-on. An integrated approach will produce the desired results.