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Hardline against drugs

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There was a time when Punjab was pre-eminent among States. Punjabi youths cut dashing pictures as soldiers, film stars, sportsmen, entrepreneurs, cultivators and what not. That was before drugs smuggled relentlessly across the border from Pakistan and Afghanistan laid waste this vibrant land. And now things have come to such a pass that Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh has ordered mandatory dope tests of government servants including policemen. From recruitment to promotion, at every stage of service, Punjab officials will have to undergo drugs screening. During the assembly poll campaign last year, Punjab’s drug problem was a major issue that exercised voters a great deal. Seeking to make good his promise of a massive crackdown on drugs, Congress strongman Amarinder Singh has warned peddlers of severe action. His cabinet has recommended to the Centre that the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act be amended to hand down death penalty to even first-time offenders. As per government admission in court, 75 percent of Punjabi youth are on drugs; over half the addicts are hooked to heroin for which they blow up Rs 1,400 on average every day. Militancy in Punjab may have been suppressed, but Islamabad found a better way to bleed India by turning unemployed Punjabi youths into zombies, living only for their next fix by selling off family assets and taking to crime. Agriculture and industry have given way to a well-oiled, deeply entrenched drugs trade that pays politicians, babus and cops handsomely; for jobless youths, drug dealing is the only way to earn good money. It is a nightmarish reality that has sprung from a culture of ‘harmless fun’ with liquor in Patiala pegs, opium and the occasional cough syrup. All this may have a familiar ring in Assam, where liquor now plays the role opium once did, even as Guwahati itself is established as a corridor of pharmaceutical drugs and narcotics supply. Dispur worries myopically over how to improve liquor excise flow, oblivious to the threat posed by the drugs triangle across the porous border with Myanmar. Assam may well go down the Punjab way, unless we take heed.