“Udta Punjab” a recently released Hindi movie (brilliantly directed by Abhishek Chaubey) quite aptly represents the seriousness of the drug abuse problem that the state of Punjab has been grappling with for many years now. What this movie also reflects is the simple fact that this problem has unfortunately become the “fabric” of a society that was once such a prosperous state in the country. The question therefore to be asked is how did such an agriculturally rich state become a haven for drug abusers? The answer to this question is not a simple one and, will require a complete analysis since this issue is rather complex.
The reasons why Punjab is struggling against a menace called “Drug Abuse”
To begin with there are number of contributing factors that have led to massive drug abuse in Punjab. These factors are as follows
- Geographical proximity to Pakistan:
Unfortunately Punjab shares its border (about 553 km) with Pakistan. In addition this border is protected via electric fencing. To make matters worse this electric fencing is switched on only after 6 pm during the summer months and after 4 pm during the winters. This illogical use of the fencing makes smuggling of drugs into Punjab an extremely lucrative and risk free business. As result of which drugs are easily available to the youth in the state.
2. Influx of drug supply from neighbouring states
Neighbouring states such as Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh possess licenced poppy i.e. opium fields. Now according a government rule a licenced poppy farmer is allowed to produce 58 kg/hectare so as to maintain quality. The excess produce is then supposed to be handed over to the Narcotics Bureau to be destroyed. Unfortunately though many farmers sell this excess produce to black markets dealing with the supply of drugs in Punjab.
3. A dull state economy, poor education system and lack of employment choices
The economy of the state of Punjab over the years has stagnated. As a result of which there has been a serious lack of employment choices for the youth in the state. This lack of jobs has resulted in a large proportion of the youth especially from the rich families taking to drugs as a way to drive away their boredom. The education system prevalent in the state have also not helped matters with, the graduates produced in the state not being worthy of a high skilled job while being totally overqualified for a low skilled one. This has added more fuel to the fire (i.e. frustrations of the youth) which has led to rampant drug abuse.
4. Open political patronage and abuse of the law
Another factor that contributes to this drug abuse problem in a big way is the open support towards drug supply by certain political leaders/parties in the state. For example during the legislative assembly election held in 2012 many political parties had given chemists the license to distribute “addictive and dangerous” prescription drugs in order to woo voters. Furthermore, a week before the election a few Election Commission officials seized about three lakh capsules and two thousand injection vials of Avil, a medicine used to treat allergies. The fact that the sprouting of a number of illegal chemist shops have resulted in the increase in the sales of lethal prescription drugs only indicate a lack of any regulation. This in turn means a total disregard for the law of the state by these chemists.
How deep rooted is this problem of drug abuse in the state
This problem of drug abuse has most definitely reached chronic levels in the state. For example a survey conducted by the state government in 2009 showed that about 75% of the youth in Punjab are drug abusers. A more recent Punjab Opioid Dependent organization conducted a study in between February to April 2015 which showed that 23,000 in the state were on drugs. These stats clearly indicating the seriousness of this drug abuse issue that has erupted in a state which was once known for its prosperity.
What is the solution to this problem?
It is said that “For every problem there is a solution” and, so there is a solution to the drug abuse issue that has plagued this state for years now. The solution being more accountability and implementation of tighter regulations by the state government. Additionally, a stronger education system in tandem with a robust economy that in turn would help generate employment would also help the state in the long run. It is only when all these solutions are put into practice and the issue of drug abuse is eventually defeated that “Punjab” can truly “fly high”.