Kashmir, Punjab addicted to DRUGS
SEPTEMBER 2, 2013 7:11 PM
The staccato of guns, the ear-shattering explosions, crinkling shattered windows and wailing screams of the near dead, half dead, the dying, the crimson streams of blood, have taken their deadly toll on both Kashmir and Punjab, leaving behind a trail of tears.
The next big challenge for Kashmir is the drug menace that Punjab is already fighting. Will drugs become another Frankenstein for the conflict zone triangle of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan? Do the perpetrators realize that those peddling or turning a blind-eye may themselves have their homes lit with the dark fires of drugs and end in a slow death, most miserable?
Having exhausted even the short change from American-Dollars received for sending arms and ammunition into Punjab and then Kashmir, the sly borders are indulging in alternate infiltration – fake currency and Drugs! These are the gen-next lethal weapons pushed into both these border states from across the semi-porous borders and even through legal trade routes.
While fake currency hits the economic health, deadly drugs destroy entire families- “Naslain ki naslain tabah karne ki saazish” (conspiracy to destroy breeds and breeds of humankind) pointed out Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, recently in Amritsar- the city that was a hotbed of terrorism in the 80s. Referring to monumental proportions of drug seizures, the former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Azad, is not off-the-mark. Punjab’s countryside of wheat, paddy and mustard blossoming border villages is heavily infested with drugs.
Massive seizures of drugs from drug cartels busted in recent months worth millions of dollars in international market, have crossed the barbed and dragon wire-fencing in Punjab, creeping in the dark into villages lining the border belt between India and Pakistan. “On an average, illegal drugs worth over Rs 2,000 crore ($365.8m) are routed to Indian Punjab annually,” Punjab’s State Minister for Health and Family Welfare Mohan Mittal had asserted.
Punjab, once in the grip of terrorism and separatism, is fighting a losing battle with drugs this time. So too is the fate of scarred Jammu & Kashmir, now in the grip of drugs for last more than a decade. Even west Punjab, especially capital Lahore on Pakistan’s side, is not left untouched by heavy dose of deadly drugs. In Afghanistan, the ready and cheapest cure for any type of pain is opium. The battle–weary population in Jammu and Kashmir, owing to low internal income generation in the past two decades of militancy, has taken to drugs. Many speculate this to be a way to blind away the realities of dealing with death and destruction or joblessness. The emotional angle is merely an excuse for escapism, some experts believe.
Infiltration routes on Indo-Pak border, that once saw heavy arms and ammunition trafficking, are now witness to additional baggage of banned drugs, heroine and others. No religious sermons have been successful in weaning away this wasting crop of sprightly youth from drugs and substance abuse in both Punjab and Kashmir. Even if normalcy does return to Jammu and Kashmir, the state is heading towards a bigger challenge of a monster of drug addiction, like Punjab.
A psychiatrist in Srinagar says, “Drugs become a cocoon to tide over emotions of seeing daily dirges and wailing mothers. “One shot and he/she is yours!” is the funda of drug dealers, who start off as users themselves and to fulfill their personal supply, graduate to the dangerous world of drug peddling.” Hundreds of youth in the once robust countryside of Punjab and now Kashmir have turned into junkies. ‘Junky’ literally meaning turning into junk; ‘Drugs have junked our youth’ admit civil society and politicians across the spectrum of Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir.
Mohammad Faiyaz Farooqi, IG BSF for the entire border of Punjab and Jammu says ‘in last few months a massive seizure of 200 Kg of heroine was affected by BSF alone. There are many agencies that are on the lookout for drugs as they pass through electrocuted fencing, cobra wires, goods, human couriers, and other covert channels. Even security personnel have not been left untouched. Many police, BSF and other personnel have been lured and are under treatment for drug addictions.
There was an instance of a popular publishing house in Amritsar, once caught sending drugs to Canada through courier, by cutting out the holy Guru Granth Sahib to hide packets of heroine. In another case, a Punjabi couple got their friend to gift new suitcases to his aged parents heading for America. The aircraft was cruising along the runaway when ordered to halt. The old couple and their baggage were both downloaded. “The new suitcases were lined with scores of packets of heroine!”
Jammu and Kashmir presents a dismal scenario. The United Nations Drug Control Programme Survey identified nearly 70,000 drug addicts in Kashmir. The long waiting list running into hundreds, for de-addiction center run by the police control room (PCR) in Batamaloo and off shoot centers in Anantnag and Baramaulla are just the tip of an iceberg. It wasn’t without cause that Azad accused Pakistan of pushing in the drugs in the border region to spoil entire breeds of families in Punjab and Kashmir, nor was congress party Vice President Rahul Gandhi merely bragging to showdown the opposition when he declared that 70 percent of the youth in Punjab are into drugs, the statistics of drug addiction is indeed alarming.
Joblessness, frustration and other pressures are cited as reasons for the high incidence of drug addiction, but doctors says addiction is a chronic disease like diabetes, blood pressure and if the habit of being addicted is not channelized, it can take the destructive route. Dr JPS Bhatia, Director of Hermitage Drug Rehab Center in Amritsar reveals that he gets 50 patients every month out of which five are females. “Every third house in Punjab has a drug or alcohol addict. As much as 80 percent of those admitted in his rehab center are heroine users.
Arif Magrabi Khan, working with addicts from Hyderpora locality of Srinagar, says the figure in Jammu and Kashmir for addicts is close to one lakh including use of psychotropic drugs. A UN survey had discovered around 6000 women addicts. The female count is much more, says Arif, as stigma, keeps many women mum, while Kashmir’s countryside is flush with cannabis addiction that grows wild there.
The infiltration of High grade drugs is easy in Kashmir owing to tedious mountain passes, snow, water and fog that help easy thoroughfare for drugs both from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Lax vigilance, high corruption, in cahoots with security at border and police makes a good supply-chain to other states in the country. Disgruntled youth – once fodder for militant groups – are now drifting into addiction, spurring a social problem of increasing gravity. Because of this, even in international forums on drug addiction, Punjab comes into stark focus and now Kashmir too is taking center stage.
While palaces were built by politicians and others on the tears of both Punjab and Kashmir, drugs were offered to assuage the devastation. During elections, political parties have graduated from mere alcohol sops to drug distribution to garner in votes.
It was strange to notice that the Punjab chief minister urged Ghulam Nabi Azad to take up the issue of drug addiction in Punjab with the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and asked him to impose a blanket ban on poppy husk, which was selling freely in states like Rajasthan. Are Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir governments not responsible for their own youth? Or will the menace of drugs completely consume the children of Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab, before politicians wake up and see that the Frankenstein monster of drugs has entered their own backyards while they played vote bank politics!
The author can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON September 1, 2013