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Drugs crisis in Indian state ‘more deadly than 15 years of terrorism’ as government employees to be tested

The narcotics crisis in India’s northern Punjab state, declared ‘more deadly than terrorism’, is to be tackled with drastic measures after it killed at least 30 people last month and allegations emerged that local politicians and senior officials were consuming and pushing drugs.

Amrinder Singh, the state’s Chief Minister, has directed over 350,000 state employees, including his entire cabinet and all police personnel to undergo annual dope testing.

Mr Singh also demanded that drug peddlers should face the death penalty, and claimed they were systematically ‘destroying’ and entire generation of Punjabis.  

Studies by non-governmental organisations and activists have found that over two-thirds of over 5.51 million households in the state had at least one drug addict in the family.

A recent study by the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Punjab’s capital Chandigarh found that 3.1 million Punjabi’s were dependent either on heroin, opium, cannabis or other narcotics.

The majority of these drug users, mostly in rural areas in the predominantly agricultural state, were males aged between 16 and 35 years, the report said.  

Opium poppies growing in Helmand, Afghanistan

Geoff Pugh

Meanwhile, senior state police officers said that Punjab’s enduring drug problem was far worse than the two decades of terrorism that ravaged the state for over 15 years until the early 1990s. Over 60,000 people were killed as part of a quest for an independent Sikh homeland. 

“Punjab’s narcotics plague is far more insidious than the Sikh militancy and remains incapable of being controlled merely by policing or by treating it as a law and order problem” said Shashi Kant, former state Director General of Police.

Drug usage was proliferating swiftly across the state but the authorities remained in denial over its exponential increase, he added.   

Moti Lal Kalsi whose son, 23-year old son Karan died last month of a drug overdose in the border city of Amrtisar, agrees.

“Punjab won the war against terrorism, but it is losing the war against drugs” Mr Kalsi said.   

Officials admitted that although there were no official statistics of narcotics-related fatalities, as most families passed these off as deaths due to natural causes, scores died each month due either to drug overdoses or by using infected needles.

Residents of districts bordering Pakistan were the most vulnerable as opium and heroin are easily and cheaply available, smuggled in from that country’s tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.

Senior police officers said that efforts to contain the flow of drugs into Punjab were further hampered by the patronage provided to smugglers by state politicians and police officials, a handful of whom had previously been arrested for their involvement.   

Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/07/09/drugs-crisis-indian-state-deadly-15-years-terrorism-government/

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