As the twilight sets in, this otherwise sleepy village in Punjab along the border of Pakistan starts getting restless, the younger brigade from the village gets huddled in a small group and get on with their daily business of sneaking into an old ruin of a dilapidated store house and get on with romancing the one substance which brings ecstasy to their otherwise mundane life which is smack. Well, talk about opium that is something which the people of not only this village but almost every other village in the state has as its daily dose. Also not to forget the womenfolk of the state especially the farm labourers who have a fixed dose every day because it enables them to juggle their varied roles in an average day. Also sometimes even a small child is made to taste a miniscule bit of opium so that they keep sleeping and resting till the time the mother comes back after doing her daily work from the fields.
Okay getting back to the group of boys, they are angry, agitated and restless because its time their body needs its daily dose of poison now, slightly unkempt, sporting massive tattoos boasting of religious deities to Sanskrit shaloks, they have their ears pierced and are dressed in loose baggy styled pants and over-sized tees, cuss words rule high here .One of them removes a medium sized packet of a white powder while one of them rolls out an aluminium paper,
takes a straw out, rolls a currency note in it. The one with the packet in his hand removes the substance and rolls it out in five vertical lines on the aluminium paper, one of them lights a spark with a neon lighter and the strip instantly lights up, the boys one after the other snorts the fumes and gets lost in their world of trance. Then their world sees nothing but ecstasy and sheer bliss. They are at once transported into a world where they know no low. It’s all about flying high here.
Well, let’s not talk about Udta Punjab because a lot has been said and written about the film. Let’s talk about the stark reality of the drug trade in Punjab which the film has highlighted. Let’s talk not about opium because that is staple here, well almost every second urban and rural man in Punjab must have had some every now and then. If not to relax, sum up energy for illegal purposes well-read carnal pleasures here. Otherwise talk of taking Opium just for the heck of it, well it’s a male chauvinist state and its manly to have some opium or least carrying it in your wallets is considered manly here.
Opium aside we are talking about drugs like smack or heroine, cocaine marijuana, poppy husk and subscription drugs like the red pill, blue pill and Corex cough syrup. Most of the drugs in Punjab are opioid based drugs having resembling properties with opium when it comes to addiction. Opium is basically processed into different stages and different chemical forms to reach drugs like heroine. Opioids are drugs that directly act upon the nervous system to relive pain both psychological and physical. But the repercussions when it comes to both physical and psychological are fatal.
The reality in Punjab is that the state’s drug system is being funded and propelled by politicians, cops and bureaucrats. Most of the kingpins in Punjab’s legislative assembly too are part and parcel of the game. The cops well, they definitely do sell in some of the stuff that they seize for some quick money and the bureaucrats go hands in gloves. Let’s conveniently stress here that if there is anything which you get easy in Punjab then it definitely is drugs. Another factor which has encouraged the drug menace is glamorization of Hindi and Punjabi songs of the ilk of Honey Singh and lyrics which talk about chitta. They make the substance abuse sound something which is macho and glamorous.
Talking about rough figures Punjab consumes drugs worth 7500 crore in a year which brings it to drugs worth 20 crore being taken in daily in the state. Around 8-10 percent of Punjab’s population is addicted to drugs out of which 70 percent of the addicted lot is 18-35 years of age.
We take you on a drive through the drug nexus in Punjab.
We get talking to 35 year old entrepreneur based in Ludhiana, he is a drug addict, he took to taking drugs around 3 years back, sharing his story, he says, “drugs are easy to find, I got introduced to them in parties where initially these were mixed in my drinks by my friends and given to me. In the hi-end circle of the people of Punjab not just men but even women partake of drugs of all kinds. It is a regular in our society. We have fixed dealers who give us lump sum on discounted rates because we are regulars. We inhale them during parties and many a times also inject it directly for an instant high.” Well, how about getting it, well that’s easy.
We get talking to a drug dealer based in Amritsar and he stresses that drugs in Punjab are the most easy to sell, “we have customers for everything right from heroine , cocaine to marijuana. Cocaine is the most expensive one, it is a crystalline powder like substance which numbs the tongue when taken. Heroine is also hard selling here, it is white and sometimes brown in color. Heroine basically effect ones respiratory system. This is basically bitter in taste. I have customers from as young as 14 years to about 45 years till age” These drugs sell at high rates and people of all kinds approach this man to get their daily dose, “I have youngsters bringing in not just cash but at time jewelry bits because they are desperate for their packet of drug. I sometimes feel that dealers like us have destroyed one entire generation in the state. But then if not me it is someone else. Everyone right from the politicians to the cops are involved. The nexus is stretched far and wide. So if things have to improve its needs a lot of work and conscience cleaning is required.”
Anmol Kapoor, a 22 year old student from a leading university in the state shares, “when I joined hostel, I was shocked to see that most of the boys here have drugs. Afeem is common, that they start having in the morning only. I am talking of drugs like heroine and cocaine. They inhale, inject and orally take it. Some like to mix it with coke.
Most of the money that parents send in for studies and tuition is spent like this and the dealers are openly known here and they come in anytime and drop in packets of the drugs as and how ordered by the students.”
Things are no different for the girls as Kapoor insists that girls in their university and many he knows of in colleges too are addicted to drugs and many a times it’s their boyfriends who supply them with their dose.
While another 25 year old boy hailing from an affluent family in Jalandhar, quips, “drugs can be brought from some chemist shops as well. We meet our dealers either at night clubs or sometimes busy parks. We keep changing the places due to social fear otherwise there is no problem , the cops very well know where to find dealers and who all in the city takes drugs but then they allow all these things to happen openly under their nose. We know of many cops who also sell drugs which they seize for some easy buck.”
The instances of drug addicts are so bad that in most of the villages, the family has to keep an addict locked up in separate rooms. When the situation goes worse families have no option but to give the person the required daily dose. They know that after a person has crossed the threshold then there is no coming back for them.
The Drug Drama
Actor Aman Dhaliwal feels strongly about the drug menace in Punjab, avers he, “this is a government policy which wants to engage the youth in drugs and keep them away from the truth and things happening in the state. It is the youth which are icons for the future and it is them who can raise their voice against the corrupt system but then our youth is busy in drugs. I openly blame the government for the worsening condition of the Punjabi youth in Punjab when it is the government who is free funding drugs and openly making it available then who can stop it.
Dalvir Singh Khangura (Goldy) ex-president of Punjab University, says, “Heroine, smack, cocaine and many synthetic drugs are being openly sold and consumed. Unemployment and easy availability are the root causes of it all. In-fact sadly the entire generation is hooked onto drugs.”
Dr Sunny Narula, a pediatrician with the Cosmo hospital in Mohali, informs, “Around 1.2 percent addict adults means five times the global average and it means a lot of people. Compounding the issue is little support on the medical front. De-addiction centers have fleecing patients. They are run by people in power. The situation is back to the licence raj. Why do we require a special licence for DE-addiction centers, why are the normal psychiatrists not allowed to treat patients on OPD basis? The licence policy restricts treatment facilities while some DE-addiction centers charge a fortune from the affected Families which too is the reason that patients leave halfway through the treatment not to return. Also let us not forget the spread of HIV and Hepatitis by the inject-able use of drugs.” Drugs are bad and we know that. But then does that make any difference when you practically have the damn chitta pushed down your throats?