Punjab administration tackles drug abuse with the use of street theatre

When Congress secretary, Rahul Gandhi, recently brought to the fore the issue of drug affliction of youth in Punjab, he may not have been entirely off the mark! Everyone in Punjab agrees that the State has a drug abuse problem. The degree of enormity and pervasiveness of the problem is where people disagree.

Punjab, being a border state, has its own hazards. Even as bureaucrats and politicians of different hues continue to spar over the issue, the Border Security Force and the Amritsar district administration have joined hands to address the menace of drug abuse and to reach out to people through the entertaining and effective medium of street theatre.

As part of a small initiative, a professional local theatre group has been roped in to stage plays, accentuating the ills of substance abuse and the urgent need to stop it. Performances will be held in the border villages of Amritsar with primary focus on youth, a number of whom are in a tight grip of this curse.

“The border villages of Amritsar are struggling with the problem of substance abuse as well as smuggling of drugs. For many of these villagers, it is almost like a profession and they see no wrong in it. We felt there was a need to increase awareness among people in an informal yet forceful way to drive home the message,” says a senior district official.

The 40-minute Punjabi play, Sikar Dupehre Raat (In the peak of afternoon, it is dark), replete with music and songs, revolves around a young boy. He is lured into the dangerous world of drugs by his friends. This ultimately leads to his terrible end and then follows the endless agony for his old parents.

“We have been doing a lot of anti-drug campaigns, but we thought something like theatre will penetrate the hearts and minds of the viewers more deeply than a sermonising lecture. The realistic performance of the artists is sure to strike a chord somewhere. Something like this has never happened in these border villages,” says Commandant I.D. Singh of BSF, who has been coordinating the campaign with the district administration.

When the play was staged in a local engineering college on the first day of the drive, it drew an overwhelming response from the students and teachers, leaving many teary-eyed.

“We will identify more villages and institutions where more performances will be organised. The idea is to disseminate the anti-drug message to as many young people and their families as possible,” adds Singh.