Rangle Punjab di sift sunava, jithe Rab vargiya Maavaan, Dharti Punj Darya di Raani, O Jisda Sharbat Varga Paani!
The land of five rivers, the place where Sikh religion originated. The place which has given brave soldiers to the nation, the place which has given various personalities in the field of economics, politics, science, agriculture etc. to the world. Anywhere you are, every morning you can hear the Gurubani from the Gurudwaras around. A number of Temples, ashrams, monuments. The fertile land of Punjab which produces Cotton, Wheat, Rice in abundance. The self-sustaining and progressive businesses in the urban areas. And yet, Punjab has been the place which has bled for years. Right from the partition, to further division of Punjab based on linguistics in mid 60s, to the terrorism in the late 70s further fueled by the pre and post Operation Blue Star of 1984 – the scariest massacre which has brought a tear in every human who has heard the stories.
Alongside all this, the fitting problem of drugs and alcohol has crippled and is destructing the roots of the state. The whole country has a drug problem but the way it has penetrated inside the Punjab is enormously high, thanks to the huge rural population, ill fated and uninformed youth, the proximity to border areas on all sides, the vested interests of the peddlers and the cruel intentions of the political parties and others involved.
The post puts into perspective some of the facts and incidences viewed by the author or heard in closed proximity of trust.
When the Child Heard it
The year perhaps was 1998. He was 12. Around his home in a neighborhood, he heard a story. There were two brothers, one of them was gone to drugs few months back, one of them recently. Why did they take drugs? Didn’t they know it will hurt them and their body? What was their parents’ mistake that they are suffering? The child was sad, the child just could not think anything else for a while and had image in his mind forever. How sad it would be for a parent to lose their children.
This was no Village. This was one of the Posh areas of a place called Ludhiana. Is the Drug problem confined to villages alone? Before writing this post, in fact the thought was such. That the problem only lies in the villages and far flung areas. But just a little thinking cleared this was not the case. In-fact almost all urban areas are surrounded by rural ones closely.
Time for the Examination
The year was 2005. He was preparing for his exam in the morning at a friend’s room. The exam was to start at 1.30 PM. Close to 12.30, he reached to his hostel room and was surprised to find it locked from inside. He knocked. There was a voice. “Mr. X hai nai” (“Mr. X is not there in the room”). Mr. X was his roommate. He said, with a heavy tone, it’s my room, open. The door opened and it was a new face in front of him, never seen before.
A very foul smell. 4 people (not college students) sitting on the bed by the window. They were trying to speak, something. He did not know what it was, but what he knew was, it was the worst thing he has seen anyone doing. Something was kept on a silver foil and there was heat being given from down under it.
In the moments he got dressed, without speaking anything, he listened. There was a pain in the voice. One of those was trying to speak. The kind of effort if took him and others to put to speak even a single line was enormously high. These people were speaking worse than someone who might even be dying. He felt bad and simply left for the exam.
Indeed, the way they were trying to speak, the pain in the voice, the enormous effort they had to make to speak even a single word was hurtful to hear and a similar voice tone has never been heard EVER before or after in the last 11 years of this incident.
Out of the College
The year was 2009. He was driving on one of the main roads. He picked one of his old college friend. The friend asked him to stop on way. It was a National Highway, just outside the Village where the friend’s friend or cousin lived. Another guy came over and bought something.
He was on the driving seat, trying to understand what they up to be. There was something white. The friend asked for a credit card. Amused, he took it out and asking will Debit work. The friend smiled. He also asked for the phone. He took out a white (chitta) powder on the phone screen, used the card to get them organized. Made some lines and snuffed them in. “Will you try”, the friend said, “Sorry, not into it”, was the reply.
He did not show anything, he did not feel anything. For a while he also thought, maybe it’s not that bad that this guy took it. He’s in-fact a decent guy. He’s not an addict. Maybe he’s just trying. Indeed, that was the problem, one need not be a bad person, or an indecent guy to fall prey to any drugs. Until this is not understood, there won’t be solution.
The Horrible Incident
Year was 2007, there was this person, as quoted by many as a very humble, nice, respectful and honest human being. One of the things he used to say to his friends and juniors was, “If you ride a car, respect a biker. If you ride a bike, respect a cyclist. We are humans, respect all humans equally.” Once a brilliant student, he did his schooling in top grades but was totally opposite during his graduation.
He was a few years senior and thus there was not much of interaction. Just a once or twice maybe. One night in 2007, when 8-10 of us were having Paranthas late night just outside the college, he came on a scooter. He spoke to one of the guys asked if there was a place, a room. He wanted sometime alone, or with his friend. He did not get a room and left.
The following day, there was a news in paper. A guy was murdered. He was befriended, he was taken to a field (khet), he was drugged. After consumption, he put his head down while sitting on the chair, he was hit hard many times by the person who befriended him until the soul left him. The following day, his face in a pool of blood appeared in a Punjabi newspaper. Students in the Hostel Common Room glued to the Newspaper in surprise.
There was a 2 minute silence in the college for the ex-student.
Mr. C is too High
2-3 years back (assume 2004) there were 3 people consuming a form of drug – Mr. A, Mr. B and Mr. C (who was Mr. B’s Cousin). It is said that Mr. C helped get some medicinal drug in abundance from one of the places to these guys. They all started taking them together as Mr. C got his free cut.
Mr. C consumed a higher dose which reacted. Mr. A and B had also taken it but they were able to stand on their feet. Mr. B got scared and did not want to get into it. He advised Mr. C will be fine himself. Mr. A disagreed and took Mr. C to a hospital, called his family. Sadly, Mr. C did not make it.
The father to Mr. C was sad and agonized at Mr. A. He did a legal case on him. It moved for a while and Mr. A got a clean chit. This Mr. A is the person referred to in the 2007 incident. The father hired a local youth from a nearby village who used to drug, there was deal, of somewhere around 1.5 lac.
It was all the Drugs linked. Someone needed drugs, someone helped get them, overdose of the free cut killed him. The revenge of the father found another druggist. And the revenge killed another druggist and a good Samaritan. Indeed, it was the link of pains, the link of drugs.
We all know how drugs send people on way of crime. But we do not up to what level. Apart from the peddlers, we all might have heard stories of fuel theft from cars and bikes. Stories of purses or things stolen from college hostels or perhaps experienced them. Stories of people dependent on the crutches of drugs trying to get some extra cash to buy that next dose. But the level of crimes they might get willing to do becomes scary. The above incidences are not merely incidences. They show the clear mind-set of how broke they might become and how easy it might be for them to move on a track of self-destruction.
Who wants them to be like that?
There have been talks for years. Reasons for drugs in Punjab. Villages without Men. But who wants them like that. Who wants them down and degraded. Many a times it’s said that border areas are the most affected. They are. It’s said the Pakistan is spreading drugs in India, in Punjab, which indeed is a separate terrorism altogether.
Simply put, for those who actually do it, it’s all about the money, simply money. The peddlers make money out of everything. If the people from Security Agency of Pakistan are involved, it might be a mix of money plus destruction. And for that matter if a bad mole on the Indian side might be involved, it has to again be the money.
Allegations and controversies have always been in place. Recently too after the Pathankot attack, suspicion was raised why the Police Officer was around the border area in the wee hours. The interview at the Dargah where he indicated he was a regular was done. The Dargah Maulwi mentioned he doesn’t remember him being there.
The man was such a strong person, he moved out from the hijacked car without a scratch while his driver was killer. There were allegations that perhaps the cop was involved in something related to the Drug trafficking racket. An enquiry was officially launched and is in progress.
Besides this there have been many discussions and controversies around this. From throwing drugs over the fences, to the water tubes around the water bodies, to simply handing them over by hand. Of course the accessibility and thus penetration has to be easy in a place where the authorities are either sleeping or facilitating or incapable of doing their job.
Many times it is said that the ruling party of Akali Dal and some of it’s leaders are involved in one way or the other. Back in 2014, a Drug peddler Jagdish Singh Bhola was apprehended with a consignment. He alleged that the Punjab Revenue Minister, Bikram Jeet Singh Majithia was also involved in the multi crore drug trafficking racket. In-fact, Bhola was an Arjuna Awardee and a suspended DSP. And we all know that the government and it’s leaders have contacts and relations in the police and other departments. Another SAD leader and a businessman in Drug manufacturing were apprehended in a couple of days in the 700 Cr Drug racket. This was huge.
Let’s go to Rally
Year 2009, one of the colleagues today, was a first year student than. The members of the Student Body backed by Akali Dal came over to the college one day. They were friends with many in the college and took along some people to the Rally. There was a little surprise in place for him.
Abundance of various forms of things which could be given to people in the Rally. “Bas bande laike aayo, te ikath vadhao. Jinna Chitta bhave hor samaan chahida, Chakko”, “Just get the people, and increase the crowd. Whatever Drug or any other stuff is required, just pick”. He was a little amused that how things work here. As other students fresh out of their home towns, he just attended the rally and came back to the college that evening.
The schools of thought for the Government involvement.
One school of thought is simple. Money. Over times immemorial, the Akali Dal government has been alleged to have followed corrupt practices, snatch businesses (particularly transport, hotels), and start their own businesses using the money in other countries. Why not can one major reason be money. Which of course is involved of a very high degree.
But power is more lucrative than Money. There is another school of thought in the minds of the people. A huge chunk of the population of Punjab is Rural Punjab. A large portion from them are the youth. The Akali Dal has been coming into power again and again from a long time. Primarily, following various clever tactics with the rural and agricultural part of the state. Giving free electricity, water and various other subsidies to agriculturists. Doing some development few months before the elections (please note during current tenure, the level of development has been quite well and better than the previous ones).
The Drug School of thought says, the government does not want the YOUTH of PUNJAB to be well informed. They do not want them to think much. They want them in a high, so whenever they want to use them, they can, so whenever they want votes, their close ties in villages can easily persuade them to perform when needed. To give and get votes in exchange for a few doses. This is indeed a strong food of thought among many.
Accessibility is high. Easily imported from Pakistan through various channels, it is indeed very easy to buy a drug in Punjab. Also, there are people, trusted buyers who keep buying from various medical and drug stores and mixing drugs and circulating. Even things like a Moove Balm or a sleeping pill like Alprax are used as drug. Very easily available of course.
But what if you buy certain things and mix them and make a drug and start selling them. Pakistan is far, there are lots of home grown things out there. Of course the Chitta (white powder/cocaine/heroine etc) might need to be imported. But the Rural Youth does not usually have that kind of money. The Chitta (cheap, mixed and duplicate) thus comes to the rural youth very easily from a trusted medical store in their vicinity or a trusted person who delivers usually in their village, while the Chitta (pure) goes to the HIGHLY EDUCATED, HIGH EARNING, HIGH STATUS people in the Urban areas.
It’s all the more simple to get it if you want it. There sure will be a friend everyone will have, who will further have a friend who could buy it from somewhere. It’s that simple. And can it be that simple if the authorities and the government are not turning a blind eye or are self-involved?
Most of those affected are the youth in late school and colleges in rural areas. With a lot of free time, almost none interest in education or studying. Loneliness and sadness sometimes might be reasons to get in a group. A group of those who drug. The need for an adrenaline rush. No knowledge of the worst ill-effects it has. And if they know of it, they never believe they will fall into it that bad. They just follow the crowd, get into it and get worse.
Getting into it has something to do with attitude too. The Punjabi Youth are sometimes insane “Ede vich ki hai? Main kyu ni kar sakda?” (What’s a big deal in this? Why can’t I do it?). On top of this, the blind eye of the authorities and easy accessibility talked above.
With allegations on involvements of such level from the government. Allegations which erupted after the Pathankot attack which is quite forgotten today and many political leaders also alleged to be involved, there has to be numerous cover-ups involved.
As per Shashi Kant, former ADGP (Intelligence), he handed over a list of 90 names of politicians and officials to the most senior functionaries of the government. Nothing progressed and he was removed from the post.
There have been numerous incidences where people on the name of drug peddling were arrested, and later committed suicide within a short period of time. Is it so simple to commit suicide in a Jail in Punjab? This also includes some people admired in their villages, some people with no drug history and some of those termed very strong in physical and mental abilities.
All of this adds up to the point that the involvement is until the most strongest levels across the state.
So where is the solution. If the police picks up the people, and they end up dead in the Jail, how will the problem solve. The Addicts are not the problem, they are made the problem. The ones who are not the addicts and demean them, the suppliers, the political environment, the authorities and not a very strong body against all of it.
It is time to talk of it, loud and clear. A time when each and everything shall be discussed openly, on public forums, in villages, in rural areas, through television promotions, religious places and wherever possible. Work needs to be done. Awareness needs to reach to the grass root level. Without the strong awareness among the youth, there will not be anything else which can stop the menace of drug abuse in the state.
It is not expected that the government will take any step strongly in this direction. They will rather try to create and impression of doing a lot and keep them away from any allegations of the state of drug affairs in Punjab.
Without getting into the nook and corner of the state, without getting into the head of the potential targets of the drug peddlers, without getting into the head of the ones who are already victims, this will never end. The fight has to be long and consistent. And the wave of the upcoming movie gives – Udta Punjab, creates an impression that awareness is at-least starting.
The movie will come, there will be discussions, talks and so on. But things will again get forgotten. Until there is real action, a determined and consistent one, there is no solution anywhere.
Eventually, it comes to it that a man is responsible for all the bad and all the good in them. There can be external factors driving the change which might be strongly required, but until deep from inside, the voice comes, and action taken, no factor or motivation will work and last long. Punjab has to be such. Punjab has to do good of it, itself. The Villages have to do good for their own villages and people. The youth have to know they are not only on a path of self-destruction, but also weakening themselves, their families and the whole state and nation by doing so. Until that inner voice is awakened inside the masses, there will never be a solution.