Despite efforts, Punjab battles drug menace

In the last three years, 29,010 cases under the NDPA Act were registered, and 39,832 people were arrested, besides 2,710 kg of heroin seized.
Despite efforts, Punjab battles drug menace
Express illustration

CHANDIGARH: Punjab remains under the grip of drug menace as in the first six months of 2024, the state police have registered 4,373 cases under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act and 6,002 people have been arrested.

In the last three years, 29,010 cases under the NDPA Act were registered, and 39,832 people were arrested, besides 2,710 kg of heroin seized.

Recently, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann ordered the transfer of at least 10,000 police personnel in an unprecedented move to crack down on the drug menace. Mann said the transfers were carried out because there were reports of a nexus between police officials and drug peddlers. He alleged that complaints against erring officers had been ignored for many years.

However, the mass-scale transfer didn’t went well with all officials. “Not everyone should be seen with the same eye. First tainted personnel should be identified before ordering the transfers. Not all are corrupt. Merely transferring the personnel will not solve the reigning drug menace in the state,” an official said on the condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, 14 youths died in two weeks due to drug douse in Gurdaspur, Abohar, Moga, Amritsar, and Ferozepur districts.

Over 280 drug addicts have died in the past three years. According to an affidavit submitted by the Punjab police in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, drug overdose claimed 159 lives in 2022–23, 71 in 2021–22, and 36 in 2020–21.

The Punjab Police last week conducted a massive state-level cordon and search operation (CASO) named ‘EAGLE-IV’ targeting identified drug hotspots across the state. A list of 750 hotspots and 9,000 street-level peddlers has been prepared.

Special DGP Law and Order Arpit Shukla said the state government has enforced a three-pronged strategy— Enforcement, Deaddiction and Prevention (EDP)—to eradicate drugs from the state. The police officers have been asked to trace the forward and backward linkages of all the cases being registered under the NDPS act and take strict action against those found in collusion with the drug smugglers.

He said that to break the backbone of the drug smuggling networks running from across the border, strict vigil is being kept on the movement of drones, which have emerged as the new modus operandi to smuggle drugs, weapons and explosives from across the border.

There were a total of 906 drone sightings reported in all the border districts of the state since September 2019, of which 187 drones were successfully recovered, he added.

“Punjab Police have forfeited 459 properties worth Rs 200 crores of big smugglers and 559 more proposals to freeze properties worth Rs 246 crores are pending with the competent authority,” he said.

As June 26 is observed as Intentional Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, Akal Drug De-Addiction Centre announced the setting up of its third centre at Chunni Kalan in Punjab. It operates two centers, one in Baru Sahib, Himachal Pradesh, and another Cheema Sahib, Punjab. The 50-bed new centre will also house a research centre in the premises.

Col (Retired) Dr Rajinder Singh, Director of Akal Drug De-Addiction Centre, said, “The new centre will address not just the symptoms of addiction but also the underlying emotional and psychological pain, providing a holistic approach to recovery,” he said.

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