CHANDIGARH: Reiterating his demand for a National Drug Policy to tackle the scourge, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday underlined the need for more synergy between the STF, the Police and the Intelligence wing to eliminate drugs from the state.
Calling for the support of all stakeholders to fight the menace, which he termed a global problem, the Chief Minister said while the neighbouring states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi had agreed to put in place an effective mechanism for tackling drug smuggling, no significant progress had been made.
Asserting his government’s zero tolerance to drugs, the Chief Minister attributed the problem to the strong nexus between smugglers, gangsters and terrorists to promote narco-terrorism in the State, as well as Pakistan.
Interacting with the people on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the Chief Minister said most of the drugs, especially heroin, are smuggled into Punjab from Afghanistan via Pakistan bordering States like Haryana, J& K, Rajasthan, Delhi and even Nepal. He termed it a Pak conspiracy to weaken Punjab’s youth and weaning them from armed forces. He cited the instances of drug drops via drones, and seizure of 700 kg of heroin smuggled into Punjab through Kandla port . In addition, several deadly weapons have been smuggled by Pakistan through Uri sector in J&K, he added.
Expressing concern over a recent incident of large drug seizure in Canada, the Chief Minister said it was shameful that the involvement of few Punjabi youth in the crime had not only defamed Punjab but also brought disrepute to other Punjabis living peacefully across the globe.
On the progress made in the fight against drugs, the Chief Minister also said Punjab had successfully got two A category gangsters deported – Sukhpreet Budhha from Armenia in 2019 and Sukh Bhikhariwal from UAE in 2021. Gaurav Patiyal was in the process of being deported from Armenia while Ramanjit Romi, a handler of gangsters, was being brought back from Hongkong. Further, efforts were on to bring back gangsters Harry Chattha from Portugal and Gagan Hathur from Australia, he said.
On the Buddy Programme, which was launched on October 2, 2018, with the aim of educating children about the ill-effects of drug abuse, Captain Amarinder said it has so far been implemented in 16, 000 educational institutions (Government and Private), with 7.5 Lakh Buddy Groups, comprising more than 37 lakh students and 1.30 lakh Senior Buddies, formed.
On the occasion, the Chief Minister also digitally launched live destruction of seized drugs/narcotics at Amritsar by a special team led by Commissioner of Police Amritsar Dr. Sukhchain Singh Gill. The consignment included 659 Kg of Heroin (worth Rs. 1, 318 crore in International Market), 3000 kg of poppy husk, 5.8 crore pills/capsules, 166 Kg Ganja, 5 Kg charas and large quantities of Bhang, smack, syrup, injections.
He also launched a week-long state-wide awareness drive by the School and Higher Education Departments.
Earlier, Health and Family Welfare Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said the State Government had made considerable progress in tackling drug abuse. He said medicines worth Rs. 70 crores were being given every year to the persons undergoing treatment for drug de-addiction. The number of persons undergoing treatment had increased from 2, 67, 000 to 6, 72, 000, with the state government having spent Rs. 70 crore to provide free medicines to the patients. He urged the Chief Minister to introduce a subject on drug awareness in the school curriculum to educate students to refrain from drugs.
PPCC President Sunil Jakhar urged the Chief Minister to direct the police force to be more vigilant in view of the US decision to withdraw from Afghanistan.
DGP Dinkar Gupta said that since Punjab shares around 550 Kilometres border with Pakistan, it has become a major transit route to smuggle heroin, mainly produced in Afghanistan, to other states across the country. Pakistan has established a huge smuggling infrastructure at the borders to smuggle heroin into drug in Punjab, using different methods including rivers, border fencing, sea route.
He said that over 420 big fish (on the basis of recovery of over 2 kg heroin) were arrested in the last four years. The Punjab Police had also managed to nab the most wanted narco smuggler Ranjit Cheeta from Sirsa, the DGP said, adding that the Special Task Force (STF) in January 2020 had busted a narcotic unit in Sultanwind area of Amritsar with the arrest of an Afghan national, and also confiscated over 190kgs heroin.
He said that the Punjab Police have also arrested some Police personnel, Army and BSF Jawans, found involved in drug smuggling. In the past four years, the police have forfeited illegal property worth Rs 233 crores under NDPS, he said.
The DGP said the Punjab Police had also busted various Pharma drug units in Punjab and other states by seizing huge quantities of Pharma drugs including Tramadol, Alprax and Benadryl etc. A pharma factory had also been busted by the department in Narela on the outskirts of Delhi, and was found supplying Pharma drugs across 17 states including Punjab. Recently, a Pharma drug factory was also unearthed in Baddi in Himachal Pradesh, he said.
ACS Home Anurag Agarwal disclosed that the conviction rate in illicit drug trafficking has gone up from 50 percent to 80 percent.
Meanwhile, the Nodal Officer Anti-Drug campaign, Rahul Tewari, said Employment Generation and Training department had launched Mission Red Sky and approached drug addicts to provide employment avenues to them.
Taking part in the event, a class 12 Jalandhar Navjit Kaur, a reformed drug addict youth Harvinder Singh from Sangrur, DAPO Headmistress GHS Panjar Jeet Kaur from Tarn Taran District, member of the anti-drug supervisory committee Dr. Sukhpal Kaur from Ludhiana and BSc Non-Medical student from Government College, Mohali Kiranpreet Kaur, shared their inputs and experiences.