By Harpreet Bajwa Chandigarh, July 3 A day after Punjab cabinet resolved to recommend death penalty to the Union Government for drug smugglers and peddlers, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Tuesday ordered investigation into the recent spate of drug-related deaths followed by stringent action against those found guilty, without consideration to their political affiliations.
In one moth alone around 30 youth have died in the state due to drug overdose.
Describing drug abuse as a disease requiring treatment, Amarinder stressed on the need for rehabilitation of the victims and for making the anti-drug campaign a people's movement.
Pointing out that enforcement was different from creating awareness, he said the latter could not be done by a single agency but had to be a collective effort involving the people. He was interacting with a group of social activists, who called on him at his official residence to discuss the problem.
The activists, including a former victim, had recently launched 'Black Week against Drugs' on the social media to create awareness about the problem.
The group comprised Dr. Bhupinder Singh, Hakam Singh, Baltej Pannu and Baljinder Singh (Mintoo), a reformed drug addict. They welcomed the stern steps taken by the Captain Amarinder Singh government, which they said had brought about a perceptible change in the public mood and perception about the issue. Amarinder said he would hold a meeting at 3 p.m every Monday to review the progress of the fight against drug menace.
The activists squarely blamed the Akalis, who they said did nothing to channelize the energy of the youth.
They said that the erstwhile Akali government had pulled money out of Sports and other activities that could engage youth, thus letting them be pulled into drugs. Amarinder promised all cooperation to the activists in creating awareness against drugs and suggested that they organize rallies and candle marches in villages, in coordination with Anti Drug Abuse Prevention Officers Program already launched by the government. DCs and SSPs should participate in such events, he added.
Thanking the Chief Minister for his time, which they said showed his intent and seriousness on the issue, the activists suggested formation of committees, consisting of 10-15 youth each, in villages to identify drug addicts.
Private hospitals should be asked to provide treatment to drug addicts, they suggested, in response to which the Chief Minister asked Health Minister Brahm Mohindra to talk to private hospitals for reservation of some beds for addicts.
They expressed concern over the 'deep nexus' between drug dealers and police personnel, especially at the SI and ASI levels. People were afraid to identify such cops, they said, urging strong steps to build confidence among the citizens. The activists suggested steps to ease out traditional intoxicants such as "Bhukki and Afeem", besides medical examination of all addicts. A helpline should be introduced for drug addicts, they added.
They also suggested that a lady officer be deputed in the STF to help weaning women away from drugs. Mintoo, a reformed drug addict, who said he had got into drugs on his own, revealed that he had been weaned out of drugs with the help of substitutes.