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Sikh State Punjab’s Fatal Attraction

Drug addiction has assumed alarming proportions in Punjab over the past few years. Thousands of young and old are in its grip, reports Krishna Kumar

FACE OF TRAGEDY: Drug addiction has brought many like Sukhwinder Singh of Narli village to the brink of disaster

Amritsar, Punjab: Sukhwinder’s is a despairingly familiar story in drug-plagued Punjab. The vibrant Punjab that had ushered in the Green Revolution is today living in a dazed stupor, as 67 per cent of the rural households in the state have at least one drug addict, a survey conducted by the Department of Social Security Development of Women and Children reveals.
Once an affluent village in Amritsar district, Maqboolpura has come to be known as a “widow village”, where almost every home has lost some of its male members to the menace of drugs. Drug addiction has become a stigma that belies claims of prosperity in the state.
The vibrancy of Punjab is virtually a myth, as no cereals are being sold here by the youth, especially drug addicts (Amali is the local term used for addicts), to earn their livelihood. Instead, many sell their blood to procure the daily dose of deadly drugs, and even beg on the streets to satisfy their addiction.
Sukhwinder was once caught by the in charge of a blood bank in his district when he went there to sell his blood. His skinny frame, death-like pallor, deep sunken eyes, and particularly the multiple injection marks on his arms, gave him in, telling the tale of his notorious past. “It is no longer a question of a village getting ruined. The whole state is in the stranglehold of this death trap,” informs Virsa Singh Valtoha, ruling party MLA from the Valtoha constituency that spreads across 96 km along the India-Pakistan border. “It is complete disaster all the way as the number of addicts keeps on increasing”, he rues.
Stooping lifelessly amidst lush green fields in Narli village in Tarn Taran district, a stone’s throw from the India-Pakistan border, Sukhwinder Singh, 29, curses the day he first touched heroin. His pale eyes well up as he bites his thin lips constantly to stifle snivel. “I have killed myself,” he grieves.
Easy availability of drugs owing to proximity of the area with the Pakistan border and relentless habit of using a {censored}tail of drugs, has made Sukhwinder pay a heavy price. An AIDS patient now, he buries his face in his hands: “I’ve nothing to look forward to in life. What will I do?”
AIDS has took its toll on Sukhwinder’s world as he has lost his wife and a daughter to complicated illnesses. His son also died two years ago. He has lost six of his close friends, who were constant companions in his dreadful revelries. “I am awaiting my turn,” he says as his eyes reflect the doom that he has brought on himself and his family.
Younger victims

Not only are more and more people getting hooked to drugs, unfortunately, they are falling prey to this lethal habit at a much younger age. Youths gets lured into the world of drugs by tasting bhuki, which grows like a wild grass and is freely available in the fields. Or they take to gutka or tobacco pouches.
“The problem has assumed epidemic proportions in the rural areas where unemployment is rampant,” says a patron of Punarjyot, an NGO working for the welfare of youth in Punjab. “A whole generation is as good as destroyed. Not a single village is without scores of drug addicts.”
Once hooked, these young men graduate to cough syrups like Phansydril and Corex, Proxyvon, Dormant 10, Diszepham tablets. From this stage they, then, move on to a more lethal menu of opium, charas, ganja, mandrax, smack, heroin, lizards’ tails and many more items like application of shoe polish in hair while sitting in the sun, smelling petrol and spreading Iodex on bread, to get that heady feeling. “Peer influence, thrill-seeking and curiosity about drugs were found to be the main factors that make youth take to drugs,” observes an official of Spring Dale Senior School, Amritsar. With the consumption of intoxicants having become so widespread, most boys treat an introduction to them as some kind of a coming-of-age ceremony.
The sordid story of drug addiction begins out of a curious adventure and soon turns into a nightmare. “I have seen my colleague’s son selling off his land and wife’s jewellery to procure his daily dose,” says Surinderpal Singh, an English teacher at a Government School in Narli. “It is really frightening as he sometimes asks his mother to shoot him in order to save him from this vicious circle.”
The spread of AIDS, too, is linked to the malady due to the use of injectible intoxicants. The death rate and the number of HIV positive cases have increased by 60 per cent due to the rampant use of intoxicants. As per reports, within just one year, hundreds of youths have lost their lives to drugs.
Source: Krishna Kumar

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