Amritsar: Punjab has placed the Election Commission officials in a quandary following the recovery of drugs and narcotics on a daily basis.
Unlike other states where political parties are accused of distributing money and alcohol as bribe to voters on poll eve, voters of Punjab, especially those living in rural areas, are being offered money and drugs. Large hauls including 22 kg of heroine in Amritsar alone during the past few days show drugs are in great demand as Punjab gets ready to vote for all 13 Lok Sabha constituencies on April 30.
The rival political parties merely accuse each other for patronising drug smugglers and dealers without initiating any serious debate on what many feel is destroying the younger generation of the state bordering Pakistan.
With the state’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party which has been in power for the past seven years facing the flak over failure and alleged links with smugglers, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi had to promise strict measures to stop the menace by blaming neighbouring Pakistan for indulging in narco-terrorism.
“When it [Pakistan] got beaten in war, it resorted to terrorism. And when we fought it strongly, it now uses narco-terrorism against the youth of my country. I will not allow it to happen,” Modi said while addressing a rally in Amritsar at a ground located barely 25-km away from Pakistan.
What amused many in the crowd was that Modi only blamed Pakistan for it, forgetting involvement of Indians in the thriving trade. He either did not want to stir the hornet’s nest or was just ill-informed that Punjab minister Bikram Singh Majithia’s name, who was present in the rally, has often come up as one of those patronising drug smugglers and dealers.
Majithia is brother-in-law of Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal’s son Sukhbir Singh Badal. Badal junior is the deputy cheif minister of the state as well as president of the Shiromani Akali Dal.
Akalis had criticised India’s ruling Congress party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who during the 2012 Punjab assembly elections said that 70 per cent of Punjab’s youth were hooked to drugs. Gandhi had created furore by putting the number of drug users so high, he had merely misinterpreted a finding of a local university that seven out of 10 drug addicts were youth.
The 2012 survey also revealed that 67 per cent of the rural households in the state had at least one drug addict in the age group of 16 to 35 years.
The Border Security Force (BSF) that guards the India-Pakistan border in Punjab has seized 94-kg of heroine in the current month alone. The total seizure in the quarter January-March this year was 243-kg.
These seizures are said to be merely a fraction of narcotics that is smuggled into the state from across the border on a routine basis.
“The easy availability of drugs to unemployed youth has made them slaves of it. The entire generation is on the verge of becoming useless unless something is done and done fast. Akalis are not above board in this issue and we just hope Modi fulfils his promise,” said a Sikh refusing to divulge his identity, saying his 25-year-old son is also a drug addict.
In Wednesday’s voting, many people in Punjab believe that the Akalis would have to pay dearly for their failure to stop the drugs menace and Majithia’s alleged patronage to the kingpin of drug syndicate.