70 per cent of the Punjab youth is addicted to drugs, if this isn’t stopped Punjab will soon become like Mexico.

 

Recently, putting a commercial spotlight on the drug epidemic happening in Punjab, upcoming Bollywood film Udta Punjab focuses on the alarming usage and dealings of drugs in the state. Finally getting the country talking and focusing on the issues happening in the North, what has the Indian Government been doing to stop the epidemic form getting worst?

Showing statistics for the last two years, The Department of Social Security Development of Women and Children suggested that as many as 67 per cent of rural households in Punjab will have at least one drug addict in the family. There is at least one death due to drug overdose each week in the region, and these figures don’t seem to be getting any better. Drugs such as Bhuki (a wild intoxicating grass, similar to marijuana), Heroin (suggested to be smuggled in from Afghanistan via Pakistan), Opium and other illegally prescribed drugs, are not only destroying the lives of the future of the country but also the families the addicts belong too.

Despite constant media attention from the shocking statistics, the government seems to be doing nothing about the problem except for certain political parties using it as a way of placing themselves positively before the public. Recently, the politician Rahul Gandhi, addressed the drug problem and claimed: ‘The present government in Punjab has been ignoring the drug issue. The drug problem will be solved [within] months if our party comes to power in the Punjab assembly elections’.

This brings up another question: what is the current government doing about the situation?

There is a need to create a secure rehabilitation system in order to deal with this problem, however, the current government has taken zero responsibility towards making changes and has instead left it to the locals to make decisions for this national emergency. In a recent On Air With AIB (an Indian version of Last Week Tonight with Jon Oliver) the comedians pointed out the lack of interest the state has shown in the epidemic. Starting off with the private de-addiction centres, these lacked infrastructure and trained staff. Moreover, approximately 43 per cent of the staff were said to harass and abuse the patients. This has resulted in an increasing number of patients stopping to seek help and continuing their addiction despite feeling remorse.

When a member of the Punjab state board was asked about what the future of this issue held, he replied: ‘It would take at least 5‐6 years to control it as the state government has shown its willingness to stem the problem. Do not criminalise or stigmatise them. It’s a disease and we should bring it to the mainstream’.

But what can be done to make a change?

Firstly, the government needs to invest time and money into the rehabilitation centres which can help the patients to make actual changes in their lives. Secondly, discretion towards the patients’ information is crucial. Too often authorities would go to existing rehab centres in order to confiscate patients’ information, resulting in arrests and jail time rather than support for those addicted. Lastly, there is an urgent need to bring in the civil services and to tighten security so that the import of narcotics can be stopped or at least reduced.

Now that this issue has gained mainstream coverage the public are able to pressure the government to take it seriously. The hope is that in time Punjab will be back to the way it once was, provided the government doesn’t delay action.