Chandigarh, The Akali Dal made a solemn commitment to the people in its 2007 election manifesto in Punjabi. The stress is on Punjabi as the same was missing in the English section.
This commitment on page 28 reads as follows:
- The present legislation would be implemented strictly to eradicate the drug menace and new laws enacted in case needed.
- Quality de-addiction centres would be set up.
- The NGOs working in this field would be further encouraged and provided all the necessary facilities.
Perhaps being in Punjabi, this part of the commitment was overlooked by the modern leadership of the party after the Akali Dal came into power in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Then came the elections to the general house of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee in 2011 four years after the 2007 Assembly elections. On page 15 of the manifesto, the Akali Dal committed itself to launch anti-drug campaign. The party stated, “We feel that the society has been gravely plagued by the menace of drugs. The SGPC will make every effort to launch global awareness drive against drugs and open quality de-addiction centres not only in Punjab but also other states”.
The issue is not that the ruling Akali Dal and the SGPC forgot all about these commitments. This has to be seen in the context of the stand taken by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal that the Punjabis were being vilified by dubbing them as druggists as part of a design. They forgot that the party had accepted the gravity of the problem way back in 2007 but never acted on its commitments. Sukhbir today blamed Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for the campaign at the national level to defame the Punjabis as addicts. But then Rahul might not have read the manifestos of the Akali Dal which are in Punjabi. He was only quoting some study. Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to the situation in Punjab in his Man Ki Baat programme.
The tragedy is that all the major political parties in the state, the ruling Akali Dal and the BJP and the opposition Congress has started focussing on this tragedy of the people mainly as part of the vote bank politics. The sincerity of at least one of the party is evident from the way it ignored its own promises to the people, both in 2007 and 2011 and is now blaming others for the situation in the state.
For the last many years, all the political parties have been distributing liquor and narcotics, especially in the rural areas and this is an open secret. The biggest farce is that this is done even in the elections to the general house of the SGPCin which the major party has always been the Shiromani Akali Dal. The media has been focussing on this aspect. In the last Lok Sabha election, pictures of appeared repeatedly of the people demanding opening of Bhukki vends on the Rajasthan pattern. The denial mode resorted to by the ruling Akali Dal is meaningless and hollow going by party’s own documents.
Aam Aadmi Party managed to win record number of four seats in the Lok Sabha elections mainly on this issue. Two of the candidates were virtually unknown. The party failed to open its account anywhere else in the country.
The drug politics started generating lot of heat and dust in the state when former cop turned drug lord Jagdish Bhola, months after his arrest, named Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia. During the last few weeks, the political heat on this issue has been on the rise.
The Badals have been advancing the logic that the narcotics were being smuggled from Pakistan. This was the theme at today’s Akali conferences also. However, it is mainly heroine that is coming from Pakistan. As the BJP announced to start its anti-drug campaign from Amritsar from January 12, now postponed to January 22, Sukhbir too went into aggressive mode and announced four rallies to be organised in the border areas demanding sealing of the borderwhich was interpreted as the protest against the Border Security Force that guards the borders. The Akali Dal was under attack from all the sections for this “anti-national” programme. The party had to amend it, saying it was only an effort to create awareness. The postings in the border area police stations are highly lucrative.
Interestingly, a day before the party was to organise these rallies, the state government fielded its Health Advisor Dr K K Talwar to make the situation clear. What he came out with was directly opposite to the position the government had taken. He disclosed that majority of the addicts coming to the de-addiction centres were addicted to opium and Bhukki. These narcotics are not coming from Pakistan. Moreover, Bhola and his associates were arrested in the Rs. 6000 crore synthetic drug racket. These synthetic drugs are being produced here and are not coming from Pakistan. These synthetic drugs are available everywhere in the state. The use of opium has been there since ages. What added to the gravity of the situation were the synthetic drugs.
Even Jagmeet Singh Brar who today quit the Congress came out with his efforts to focus on the drug issue seeking judicial intervention. He has personally argued in the case nine times in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Now is the turn of the BJP to cash upon this tragedy of the people.
The Badals should read their party manifestos and try to act upon the promises rather than finding fault with others.
The political parties should not get so dehumanized to cash upon this tragedy of the people. This is a problem which calls for multi-pronged strategy and holistic approach. The most important is political will. As a first step, the political parties should stop supplying liquor and narcotics in the elections. Punjab is going in for the elections to the local bodies within the next few weeks. This would be the first test of these political parties. The intelligence agencies would have every information on this issue. It is too well known a fact that mafia can’t operate without political patronage anywhere.