Punjab CM Amarinder Singh cooks formula to weed out drugs
By Harpreet Bajwa | Published: 16th July 2017 12:08 PM |
CHANDIGARH: Glimpses of khaki and stark white starched kurtas lurch through the purple haze of drugs in Punjab. With the SAD-BJP ruling alliance in the state being replaced by the Congress led by Capt Amarinder Singh since March, the murky world of a high lingers on like an all-enveloping shroud in the drug-infested state. And while the Congress had promised to rid the Land of Five Rivers of narcotics within four weeks of coming to power, the Captain is smouldering to weed it out.
In the run-up to the elections, Amarinder had declared as Punjab Congress president, “Drugs is the first thing we will attack and in four weeks we will end this drug menace in Punjab.”With some high-profile politicians of the previous SAD-BJP regime allegedly involved in the drug trade in the state and the picture of the nexus between the drug mafia, police and politicians slowly clearing up, Amarinder is keen to act.
He has given a free hand to the Special Task Force (STF) formed on drugs. The STF was formed on March 16 by the new state government and is headed by Additional Director General of Police Harpreet Singh Sidhu, a 1992-batch Punjab cadre IPS officer. He was handpicked by Amarinder and reports directly to the Chief Minister. Sidhu has been involved in anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh.
In the first four months of the Congress regime in the state from March 16 to July 10, Punjab Police and the STF registered 4,819 cases under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, and arrested 5,556 people. The seizures are enormous—over 71 kg of heroin; 249 kg opium; 50 kg charas; 7 kg smack; 15,199 kg poppy husk; 1,355 kg ganja; 160 kg bhang; 107 kg intoxicant powder; 13.25 lakh pills, and other banned substances.
Last year during the SAD-BJP rule, a total of 5,906 cases were registered and 7,265 people were arrested. In 2015, 10,159 cases were registered and 12,181 accused were apprehended.On July 12, 2017, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) filed a chargesheet against former Punjab minister Sarwan Singh Phillaur, his son Damanbir Singh Phillaur, former Chief Parliamentary Secretary Avinash Chander and eight others under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in the multi-crore Jagdish Singh Bhola drug case.
In August 2016, a local court had acquitted former Deputy Superintendent of Police Jagdish Singh Bhola, businessman Jagjit Singh Chahal, former Akali leader Maninder Singh Aulakh Bittu, and former head constables Dharamvir Singh and Sandeep Singh in a 1 kg heroin recovery case from two men. The two, Dalbir Singh and Tarsem Singh, got 12 years in jail. Bhola, the kingpin of the drug trade in Punjab, remained in prison as he is accused in several other cases too. He had accused then state Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia of patronising the drug mafia.
SAD leaders Phillaur and Chander joined the Congress just before the Assembly elections. They were the first political leaders ever in the state to be named in drug case by any agency.
In June this year, Inspector Inderjit Singh of Punjab Police was arrested by the STF for having links with drug smugglers. Following his arrest, Senior Superintendent of Police of Moga, Raj Jit Singh, was also questioned in this regard.
Sources said that during the interrogation of a middle-level state police official, it came to light that a DIG and IGP may have links with drug smugglers in the state and be allowing them to operate.
The interrogation of Inspector Inderjit revealed that drug smugglers gave him money to spend on the families and functions of senior police officials. While Inderjit was posted in Jalandhar (Rural), a drug supplier called Raja Khandola gave him money for such events. Khandola is now in jail.
Inderjit also used to register false cases against innocent people to extract money from them. Ths STF is probing his finances. Illegal weapons, including an AK-47, were also recovered from him. Inderjit used to sell seized weapons, which were case properties, to drug smugglers.“The STF is monitoring all senior officers who supported Inderjeet Singh and is checking their past,” said an official.
The STF will also probe four DySPs. Of these, two worked with Inderjit in Hosiarpur and two in Taran Tarn, said sources.Under Operation Clean, Punjab DGP Suresh Arora has written to all field officers asking them to inform Police Headquarters about any officer’s links with drug smugglers. Police officers’ properties are also under the scanner to ascertain where the money came from to buy/build them.
Swallowing the syllabus pill
Students will be taught about the evils of drug abuse in their syllabus from the next academic session starting July 19 in all colleges under Guru Nanak Dev University (GDNU). The subject will be compulsory in BA Part I. In the first and second semesters, students will be taught drug abuse as a problem, prevention and management, drug history, dependency, addiction, physical and sociological dependency, drug tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.
The syllabus will include types of drugs and their effects, including unemployment, law and order issues, domestic violence, etc. Lectures on medication, de-addiction, counselling and group and family therapy will also be given. The exam paper will be of 50 marks/grades. The subject was included on directions of Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Detox is just a touch away
A mobile phone app for addicts’ rehabilitation and prevention of relapse will help them learn how to stay away from drugs. The app has been developed by former principal of Christian Medical College, Ludhiana, Dr Alex Zakaria. “This theory will be implemented in all four drug deaddiction centres run by Red Cross in Patiala, Gurdaspur, Khanpur and SBS Nagar,’’ says C S Talwar, secretary, Indian Red Cross Society, Punjab State Branch.
Students turn teachers
The Punjab government will introduce a volunteer system for school and college students under a three-pronged strategy—enforcement, rehabilitation and prevention. Prepared by the STF, the programme called M Buddy will encourage community participation for combating drug abuse. It will be started as a peer group of Drug Abuse Prevention Volunteer (DAPV). The focus will be on drug addicts, vulnerable individuals and adolescents.
A recent survey by All India Medical Sciences revealed that there are 2.30 lakh drug addicts in Punjab.
All school-going children from Class VI onwards (12 years and above) to college students can become a ‘buddy’, who can be in a pair of two or in a group of maximum five people. All buddy volunteers have to take care of themselves and their ‘buddies’.
They will keep tabs on drugs and addicts and will prevent use of alcohol, tobacco and pan masala. They will be trained by school and college teachers initially for half a day for six months. After every three months, they will be trained to identify warning signals of negative behaviour. The buddies will also attend talks, watch plays and films, and participate in interactions.
They will be required to identify addicts in their areas and motivate them to quit drugs, protect and prevent them from taking drugs, facilitate their de-addiction and rehabilitation, organise awareness campaigns, educate them through from plays and discussions, and provide information to police about drug smuggling.Chief Minister Amarinder Singh says, “The number of arrests and seizures in four months speak for themselves. Drugs are no available off the shelves as they were earlier.”