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‘Udta Punjab’ by Anurag Kashyap has brought the crisis of drug abuse that has gripped the State into mainstream discourse. The movie provides rare glimpses of the extent of the menace that affects all, without the bias of gender or class. The following section provides succinct previews about the worsening condition of Punjab.

At the outset, the intensity of the problem can well be gauged from the fact that about 60 per cent of the drugs confiscated in India are seized alone from Punjab. Also in the news was the the Drug Situation Report, September 2015, released by Narcotics Control Bureau, that claimed a seizure of 13.755 kg of heroin from Khemkaran, Amritsar. Dr. S.P.K. Jena, Associate Professor, Department of Applied Psychology, University of Delhi, says “not only these drug addictions have led to decrease in efficiency of the youth of Punjab but also has given rise to a number of criminal and anti-social activities.”

In a 2013 working paper, ‘Factors Driving Drug Abuse in India’s Punjab’ by Rahul Advani, Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), it is stated that although there is no comprehensive study to determine the number of drug addicts in the State, it is estimated that 40 per cent of the Punjabi youth in the age group of 15-25 years have fallen prey to drugs.

If we were to apply this statistic to the total youth population of Punjab, this would suggest that roughly a population of about 1.5 to 2 million young Punjabis are addicted to drugs. According to a study ‘Drug Addiction in Punjab: A Sociological Study’, 2013, by Dr Ravinder Sandhu, UGC Emeritus Fellow, Department of Social Work, Punjab University, Patiala, reveals that such crimes in Punjab are nine times more than the national average. The study further states that 73.5 per cent of drug addicts belonged to the 16-35 age group. Dr Suman Gupta, Psychiatrist, Social Worker and Counsellor at Neuropsychiatry and Drug Deaddiction cum Rehabilitation Centre, Chandigarh, adds “the trends for drug consumption in Chandigarh are on its peak and are being equally consumed by both poor and rich sections.’’

As per the ISAS paper, the high proliferation of drug rackets and consumption in Punjab can be attributed to unemployment, agricultural economy, obsession with masculinity etc. as the economic growth of the State is hampered due to a downturn in agricultural productivity, resultant from over consumption of pesticides and fertilizers in the wake of green revolution. As per the study, “Impact of Delay in Investment Implementation in Punjab”, 2015, conducted by Assocham, a sharp declining trend has been observed in the growth performance of Punjab’s economy as the State’s overall growth has declined from 10.2 per cent in 2006-07 to 5 per cent in 2014-15.

The green revolution resulted in a large influx of workers from the states of UP, Rajasthan and Bihar because of which the native youth are subjected to competition in employment opportunities, along with substandard quality of education and unemployment. This incompetency further gives rise to distress due to which drug consumption shoots up not only for high priced drugs like opium and heroin but also cheap drugs in the form of tablets, capsules and injections. Most villages in Punjab do not have health clinics but usually have three to four drug stores which sell cheap pills as an affordable alternative to heroin.

The ISAS paper also adds that ‘increasing masculinity’ has also become a growing phenomenon for drug use. Usually, the most popular reason for drug abuse given by abusers is that they wanted to increase their sexual performance. This suggests that drug abuse is partially consumed for both display and realisation of masculine identity. Maqboolpura, a village in Punjab is called the ‘village of widows’ because of the large scale deaths of young men due to drug abuse, the paper points out.

As per the Punjab Opioid Dependency Survey, 2015, carried out by the Society for Promotion and Youth Masses and National Drug Dependence Centre, AIIMS, almost 80 per cent drug addicts report that they have tried to give up drug use in the past but just about 35 per cent have received any kind of help or treatment.

Jena further said that “not only does heroin and other drugs lead to slowing down of one’s reasoning ability, mental functioning and blockage of thought processes, but also has further consequences, in the form of secondary effects, like committing crimes and engaging in anti-social activities.” He also suggested methods, to overcome addiction, such as “counselling, psychotherapy and vocational training of people suffering from addiction.

Policies should be formulated with missionary zeal and strong political will power. The government should stop putting the drug abusers behind the bars and should rather try to understand their reasons for adopting drug addiction of any kind. The state is earning around INR 13 crore daily from the excise duty on sale of liquor but nothing is spent on the research on drug abuse.”

In Punjab, a host of factors are aggravating the depressing situation. And what further accentuates the crisis is the fact that the population suffering from drug addiction is primarily the youth who are fundamental to economic growth of any region.

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