Drug addiction: Punjab

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This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.

Contents

The extent of the damage

The Times of India, Jun 23 2016

Neha Singhal and Sumathi Chandrashekaran

Punjab and impending doom: Drug abuse and related crimes have spread across all districts 

Theoretically , Punjab is not the state with the largest number of registered cases. It is sandwiched between a marginally-higher Maharashtra (14,622 cases) and a significantly-lower Uttar Pradesh (5,742 cases). But aggregate state-wise cases tell us little about the true impact of drugs in a state.

To understand this better, we delved further into cases registered in administrative districts (as per the 2011 census) all over India under the NDPS Act in 2014. Of the top 15 districts by cases registered, 13 were from Punjab, with Mumbai (Maharashtra) and Ernakulam (Kerala) being the other two. (Mumbai district, with 14,314 cases, is clearly an outlier amongst Indian districts, for various complex reasons not gone into here.) The remaining 7 out of 20 Punjab districts come within the top 40 districts by cases registered. The large spread of cases across the state of Punjab reveals the true extent of the problem: vulnerability to drugs is not restricted to just one or two cities in Punjab; it is a truth that is universal.

The manner in which the NDPS Act is enforced in Punjab is ill-suited to the state, because the law focuses mainly on deterrence and prevention of trafficking. But the problem in Punjab is addiction. Drug use is rampant across Punjab, with abuse of opium, poppy husk, heroin and pharmaceutical drugs being most common. Our analysis of cases from four districts in Punjab (Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Patiala) shows that most people brought before the courts are either users or small peddlers who sell drugs to feed their own habit.

A quick scan of the arrest data of 2014 and 2015 from four police stations in Amritsar reveals that most people are arrested for carrying drugs for personal consumption. For example, of the 72 arrests made by the Chheharta police station in Amritsar for possession of heroin, only six were for carrying commercial quantities. We were also informed by reliable sources that addicts who were inmates of the Amritsar central prison injected themselves with blood from fellow drug-addicted prisoners just so they could get a high.

The drug problem in Punjab is often attributed to a porous Indo-Pak border.Punjab shares a 553 km border with Pakistan, through which heroin is apparently channelled from Afghanistan.But the porous border is a small part of the problem. As one moves further inland, the pattern of drug use changes, but the incidence of drug use remains dangerously high. Police recovered massive quantities of opium (3,822 kg) and poppy husk (4,610 kg) in 2015 from Jalandhar and Ludhiana, respectively.No other state along the same Indo-Pak border boasts of the same magnitude of drugs-related cases.

In 2013 and 2014, when the extent of drug abuse in the state first caught the attention of the national media, a social worker at a de-addiction centre in Punjab told us that the police went on an overdrive to appear to be taking steps to curb trafficking and actively rehabilitate addicts. Apparently , they forcibly took people enrolled for de-addiction, and sent them to rehabilitation camps set up by the government. This move corresponded with a fall in the number of arrests under the NDPS Act between 2014 and 2015.

Burying the problem in the sand is not going to help anyone. A state government focussed only on saving face will be satisfied with knee-jerk reactions, without delving into the true cause of the problem. A Censor Board that prevents the release of a film depicting the truth will only prevent people from appreciating the gravity of the problem, leaving society de-sensitised, ignorant and disinclined to intervene.

Addicts jailed, not rehabilitated

The Times of India, Jun 16 2016

Abhinav Garg  At a time when `Udta Punjab' has put the spotlight on the state's crippling drug problem, not much is being done to rehabilitate addicts, according to RTI queries. At least 30 rehab centres run by the Punjab government or linked to it have not received a single addict sent on court orders, Punjab's he alth department admitted in its response to RTI questions. Sections 27, 39 and 64-A of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act give an option to courts and prosecution to send those caught with small quantities of banned drugs for personal consumption to rehab centres.

This would allow addicts an exit route, and save them from a jail term. Addicts typically get smaller jail terms, unlike traffickers. RTI queries have indicat ed that Punjab's crimi nal justice system appears to be geared towards jailing addicts convicted for drug abuse, rather than curing them. The sentences ordinarily vary from 15 days to a year in prison depending on the quantity of drugs found on an addict. The RTI queries were filed by Neha Singhal and Sakshi, senior researchers with Delhibased think tank, Vidhi Centre For Legal Policy.

The RTIs sought full de tails of the number of addicts prosecuted under section 27 of NDPS Act who were referred for rehabilitation by courts.

The applications didn't lay down a time-frame but sought the number of patients who enrolled voluntarily, facilities and treatment available at the centres, the nature of drugs used by patients, disbursement of funds, etc.

Section 27 of the NDPS Act says that persons found in illegal possession of drugs in small quantity are liable to imprisonment of up to six months, or fine, or both, which, in respect of hard drugs like heroin, would be up to one-year imprisonment or fine or both.However, the court is empowered to release an addict to undergo treatment for de-addiction on his executing a necessary bond.

Moga District: Impact on society

The Times of India, Jun 16 2016

Rohan Dua

It is unusual for a man in rural Punjab to be unmarried at 31. But no one wants to marry their daughter to one-time drug addict Manjit Singh in Rauke Kala village in Moga. He has given up chitta (heroin) for a while now but the stigma of being a drug addict has stuck like an unshakeable shadow.His younger brother, who doesn't have the burden of addiction, is married and is expecting a child. Barely a kilometre from Manjit's home lives 28-yearold Inderbir Singh, another one-time addict recovering from chitta abuse. He lives with his mother in a makeshift house because he sold off their farms to nurse his daily fix. According to land revenue records, he sold the family's entire six acres of land in bits and pieces between 2014 and 2015 to four people. The Rs 3 crore he got was spent on heroin.

The film `Udta Punjab' trailer shows the character played by Shahid Kapoor living a wild, out-of-control life.The reality of many of the addicts in Moga (one of the districts mentioned in the film), however, is a sad tale of lonely young men, fighting depression and bankruptcy .

Some panchayats in Moga -better known for its flourishing NRIs across the globe -have formed support groups led by parents and siblings of drug addicts or by activists. TOI accessed records of some of these groups and found that an aston ishing 780 men in Rauke and neighbouring dozen-odd villages like Rania, Buttar, Rama, Manoke and Himmat pura have either lost their lands or a chance to get married because of their addiction. Records of the Punjab State Health Corporation show that Moga district has listed 2,180 drug addicts who have been booked have been booked under the Narcotic Drugs and Psycho tropic Substances (NDPS) Act for heroin smuggling or possession. Many of the medical reports that TOI accessed said that several of the addicted individuals find it difficult to get married and are suffering from depression as a result.

The corporation works under the state health ministry and runs de-addiction centres and distributes medicines to addicts. Reformation has be come as painful as the with drawal symptoms.

“Most men like me or their parents are paying hefty bills either for drugs or for treatment,“ says Inderbir Singh, who spent 20 days at a de-addiction centre recently . From spending Rs 17,000 on treatment at de-addiction centres to being declared a social outcast by villagers, reformation has become as painful as the withdrawal symptoms. Some of these addicts have sold goats, horses and cattle worth Rs 5 lakh.

Curb promotion of psychotropic substances: Benegal panel

The Times of India, Jun 10 2016

Censor Board and the issue of drug smuggling into Punjab; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, June 11, 2016

Himanshi Dhawan

Benegal report against clearing movies on drugs

Films that portray or promote misuse of psychotropic substances will not be accepted for certification according to the guidelines proposed by the Shyam Benegal panel report. The report was submitted to the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry in April 2016 and is under examination. One of the principle criticisms against Udta Punjab has been that the film portrays Punjab as a den for drugs with Censor Board chief Pahlaj Nihalani saying that it showed 70% of Punjabis as drug users.While Benegal described Udta Punjab as a well-made film after watching it, following a special screening on Wednesday , he has been non-commital on the cuts.

In an indirect dig at Nihalani, Benegal said that it was not an individual's job to look after people's morals. Asked if Udta Punjab should have been given an adult certification instead of the 89 cuts suggested, he said, “I don't want to comment on the film. It is going through a process. But our recommendations are that films should be classified in to a given category. It is not my job to look after people's morals.“

His report, which deals with revamp of the Central Board of Film certification (CBFC) says, “Films that as a whole portray and promote misuse of psychotropic sub stances would not be accepted for certification. In order to qualify for an adult certificate the film can show imbibing psychotropic substances, liquor, smoking and tobacco but the work as a whole must not promote or encourage misuse of the same. “The misuse of easily accessible and highly dangerous substances (for example aerosols and solvents) is not acceptable. The guidelines also say , “Works that normalise or glamorise misuse of the same are likely to receive higher classification than works that show misuse while emphasising or bringing out the dangers and ramifications of such use of substances. It adds that works that glorify and justify drinking liqour, smoking or imbibing tobacco will receive higher classification than works that implicity or explicitly criticise the same that would get a lower classification.

The Benegal committee, set up in January 2016, had recommended five kinds of classification of certifying films. These included universal -that was meant for general public, UA12 that allows for children up to 12 years to watch the film content under parental guidance, UA 15 that allows children who are 15 years and below to watch the film under parental guidance. The adult certification has also been split in to two -adult and adult with caution (AC), the latter for more explicit content in terms of violence, sex, substance use and nudity.

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