A region long known for its agricultural prosperity, Punjab in India is now becoming famous for something else; a besieging drug problem. The issue has boiled over to the point that it has become ingrained in the state’s political, economic and societal principles.
Several studies have in fact pointed out that Punjab has the highest number of registered drug abuse cases in India, accounting for more than half of the total cases registered in the entire country. Of these, the more popular narcotics that are doing the rounds include heroin, amphetamine, poppy husk, powdered poppy husk and opium derivatives like afeem, etc. Added to this list are several prescription drugs like diazepam, alprazolam, buprenorphine, pethidine and fortwin.
Reasons for Punjab’s fixation with drugs
Studies point out several reasons as to why Punjab is more susceptible to drug abuse than other states in the country. The more prominent of these reasons include:
Close Proximity with Pakistan and Afghanistan: Punjab shares a lengthy border with Pakistan, and is also in close proximity to Iran and Afghanistan. These three countries are considered to be the largest producers of opium in the world. As such, smuggling narcotics into Punjab is a common occurrence, with over 84% of drug seizures happening near the border alone.
Transit hub for drugs
Punjab also happens to be a major transit hub for drugs that enter the state via nearby Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. This makes the state a central location for several extensive drug networks spanning over the entire country. Although the government monitors and legalizes the sales of specific amounts of these drugs, trafficking of drugs across the border remain high, thereby making it easier for one to gain access to opium and other drugs in the state.
Over the counter medications
Sales of over the counter medications by unlicensed medical stores and chemists in Punjab remain a huge problem. Chemist shops in fact are the primary suppliers of drugs in the state, and sell them to customers without prescriptions or invoices.
Higher officials involved in drug trade
There is also the news that several higher officials from the government are involved in Punjab’s increasing drug trade. Estimating to reach over Rs. 6000 crore, the drug racket is said to be influenced by prominent political leaders of the state which may one of the main reasons of it being deliberately ignored by officials.
Punjab’s deepening drug crisis has created a rift between the ruling SAD and its coalition partner BJP. Instances of agitations carried out by SAD members along the Punjab-Pakistan border to stop drug trafficking has increased even as the government is all set to launch its first anti-drug campaign on January 14, 2015.
Punjab has been seeing an increase in drug trafficking over the past few years, with everything from cross border issues to political influence being considered as the main reasons for the same. With the government set to launch its anti-drug campaign this month, one would have to wait and see if the problem is curbed in any way in the near future.