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Youth Drug Addiction Crisis Ravages Punjab's Heartlands

Discussion in 'Hard Talk' started by Archived_Member16, Jun 17, 2010.

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    Youth drug addiction crisis
    ravages Punjab's heartlands

    By Rahul Bedi - 4:00 AM Thursday Jun 17, 2010

    India's northern Punjab province is on the verge of a crisis as large numbers of its youth are hooked hopelessly on to drugs such as opium, heroin and a range of synthetic painkillers.

    "Punjab is teetering on the edge of an extraordinary human crisis, with an inordinately large number of youngsters imbibing marijuana, opium and heroin in addition to ingesting prescriptive tablets," said Raj Pal Meena, head of the state's Anti-Narcotics Task Force (ANTF) in Punjab's capital, Chandigarh.

    The threat from drugs, he added, was bigger and even more dangerous than the two decades of Sikh terrorism that had ravaged the province until the early 1990s, in which over 60,000 people died, as it was far more insidious and could not be rectified merely by policing.

    According to the ANTF, all of Punjab's 20 districts, particularly those bordering Pakistan, were infested with drug dealers selling contraband such as opium and heroin smuggled across the frontier and from further afield in Afghanistan. ANTF officials said a large proportion of the 500kg of heroin seized in the state last year was for local consumption, while the rest was for onward transportation to Western markets.

    But they stress these seizures represent a small proportion of the narcotic that made it profitably to the user.

    "In rural Punjab, families often try to pass off a drug overdose death either as suicide or an overdose of prescriptive medicines for chronic ailments," Meena said. The entire state seems to be in denial over its drug addiction, he said.

    Punjab's grievous drug problem was revealed recently in a report by Guru Nanak University in Punjab's largest city, Amritsar, which declared that some 73.5 per cent of the state's youth aged between 16 and 35 years were confirmed drug addicts.

    The study said young people in villages were more prone to drug abuse and attributed this to high unemployment, social tensions and easily-available narcotics.

    Shrinking land holdings and limited educational facilities further exacerbated the problem by spawning a generation of disenchanted youth who felt inadequate and lacked self-esteem. This in turn resulted in drug-hooked youngsters graduating from indulging in petty crime to undertaking contract killings for small sums that paid for their next fix.

    In this chauvinistic state, there was also the widespread belief that opium increased sexual potency and, during harvest time, the belief that the opiate helped people work tirelessly.
    "Despite Punjab's drug epidemic, the Government has initiated no formal plan to counter it," Punjab journalist Asit Jolly said. The few groups trying to organise detoxification programmes were run by religious sects and a handful of non-governmental organisations.

    Efforts at trying to manage Punjab's drug trade were further hampered by the direct involvement of the police.

    Last year, authorities arrested a senior Narcotics Control Board officer for running a major drug-peddling operation in Punjab, valued at billions of rupees. He is under prosecution but the syndicate of which he was a part is reportedly still active.

    Earlier in the nearly two-decade long Sikh insurgency, a nexus evolved between narcotic smugglers from Pakistan and local insurgent groups, who used the proceeds to fund their "war of liberation" for an independent Sikh homeland. The victims they spawned en route have created a a contagion that Punjab is ignoring at its peril.

    By Rahul Bedi

    source: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10652338&ref=rss
     
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