Drug addiction is a major problem in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. The synthetic drugs referred to as ‘Chitta’, include heroin, ecstasy, methamphetamines and LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide). Earlier, Chitta used to refer to heroin only, but now the term covers all synthetic drugs. The states of Punjab and Himachal have been reeling under the widespread drug addiction, among all sections of society, irrespective of age and gender. Let’s take a look at what has been done to deal with the Chitta Drug crisis:
What is the difference between Chitta drug and other drugs?
So what is Chitta? As mentioned before, Chitta drugs are those which are produced synthetically, such as heroin LSD, ecstasy, meth and so on. More specifically, Chitta is believed to be heroin mixed with other chemical substances. Chitta drug is consumed by addicts by placing some milligrams of the drug on an aluminum foil and lighting a flame under the foil. The resulting fumes are then inhaled to get a high.
There are other drugs which people are addicted to, such as Bhang. Bhang is produced from the cannabis plant leaves, which usually grows in patches in the fields. When cannabis is dried, shredded and then smoked, it is termed as Marijuana.
Marijuana is not a harmful drug as such when it is consumed in small quantities, and due to its medicinal properties, it has been classified as safe for medical use in US and legalized. In Netherlands also, marijuana is a legal drug.
What is the Chitta Drug crisis?
You can imagine the extent of the drug crisis, when the viral video of a young woman, newly married, was shown to be taking the Chitta drug. The video brought home the fact that it was not just the unemployed youth or students using the drug. The use of the drug is not restricted to just one class or gender – it has spread to all genders, ages, class and geography. People in rural areas are as addicted to it as in the urban areas.
Due to the proximity of Punjab to the border, the drugs which are manufactured in Afghanistan find their way to Punjab very easily. The drug trade was flourishing last few years, even as the economy and businesses were on the downhill. The addicts took to becoming peddlers themselves, which drastically increased the problem. The drug business has its tentacles in rural Punjab as well as the suave drawing rooms of Chandigarh and Ludhiana.
Alarming condition in Himachal Pradesh
In Himachal, the Chitta Drug crisis is not as severe, but it is getting more serious every day. When we imagine Himachal, we picture an idyllic locale, where everyone is innocent and everything is pristine. But, the beautiful state might have 50-60% of the youth population addicted to drugs. Many parents are not aware of the drug problem, or unwilling to accept it, making it hard for addicts to be rehabilitated.
Though there is no exact data for the deaths due to overdose, NGOs estimate these deaths might be around 15-16 over a period of a year. Girls too are as affected as boys, with approximately 500 of them being in rehab centers. The young people are unaware of the dangers of the powdery substance (heroin laced with chemicals) and there are many cases of overdose, in Shimla, Malyana and Krishna Nagar.
The problem in Himachal is similar to Punjab, as here too, the addicts have become peddlers which has led to the immense spread of Chitta drug. According to the doctors who treat addicts, the condition of some of the addicts is quite horrifying, as they suffer from mental and physical problems. These addicts need their dose regularly or they suffer immensely.
In Himachal, drugs are produced as well as the drugs from Punjab have proliferated into the state. The age group which is the most targeted is the 17-27 age group. The high presence of foreign nationals have also spiked the demand for hard drugs like Chitta. The locals in high altitudes such as Manali, Parvati and Kullu have found a way to make a quick buck by cultivating opium and cannabis. Even though the police raid illegal plantations, the growth and supply has not been checked.
Small shops situated around many educational institutes have become the main hubs of the chitta sales. One of the private universities located outside Shimla has the dubious honor of being a centerpoint of drug sales.
Addiction leading to crime
The Chitta habit is an expensive habit. Just one dose of the drug, which might be less than one gram, costs around 500 rupees, resulting in a five-fold profit margin for dealers. It was observed that most addicts start out by buying drugs from pocket money or by borrowing money from people. When they get deeper into the habit, they need more doses of the drug, so they become peddlers too. This is what is happening in both Himachal and Punjab, deepening the crisis.
There have been instances when addicts have taken to stealing goods and selling them to finance their habit.
The fight to eradicate Chitta in Punjab
In 2017, the Chief Minister of Punjab declared a war on Chitta. He made a promise to eradicate only Chitta. When asked ‘What is Chitta?’, he clearly differentiated between the Chitta and drugs like bhang. The youth of Punjab have come under the sway of the Chitta Drug, and the government decided it was time to eliminate these drugs from the roots.
Capt. Amarinder Singh said that it is almost impossible to eradicate the drugs like bhang, as people have been growing them and consuming them for more than a hundred years.
A special task force was set up to formulate a strategy to eliminate chitta from Punjab. Himachal Pradesh too has taken a forceful attitude towards drug smugglers and peddlers, resulting in several arrests and recovery of the drugs. Strong and consistent steps need to be taken by the governments, including joint operations, to combat the Chitta crisis.