Widespread addiction to drugs and alcohol as well blatant use of such intoxicants to lure voters has become one of the issues that is not only being debated but has provided enough material for political leaders to pin down their opponents in the ongoing campaign for the 16th Lok Sabha elections.
While the unearthing of two major networks for trafficking heroin and synthetic drugs, operated through an international web had hit headlines last year, the secretariat of Punjab's Chief Electoral Officer said that the authorities had made major seizures of a wide variety of intoxicants ever since the model code of conduct was enforced.
The market value of the seized items is estimated around Rs. 600 crore. They include 130 quintals of poppy husk known as bhukki in local parlance, 135 kgs of heroin, 65 kg of opium, 1.6 kg of smack, 27 kgs of “dry powder,” nearly one lakh capsules and 1.63 lakh tablets of intoxicants, 1.28 lakh litres of illicit liquor, 43,737 bottles of country liquor and 24 quintals of 'lahan' (molasses) used to make illicit liquor.
The Congress and Aam Admi Party have gone on the offensive on the issue, accusing the Akali Dal-BJP government of not only turning a blind eye to the problem but patronising the trafficking of intoxicants that jeopardised an entire generation in the State.
The AAP chief, Arvind Kejriwal, during the ongoing road shows in support of his party candidates, pointed out that the name of the State's Revenue minister, Bikram Singh Majithia had figured in the synthetic drugs case busted by the Patiala district police. He charged that the dirty money was being used to subvert democracy especially the elections.
Ever since he entered the fray at Amritsar, former Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh has been raised the issue at almost every public rally or a press conference. He has charged the entire clan of Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal as well as their minister relative, Mr Majithia of patronising drug trafficking. “I understand your greed for robbing the State by grabbing the mining, liquor, transport or cable trade but at least spare our youth and don't indulge in the drug trade and trafficking,” Capt Singh addressed the ruling family through one of his statements.
Capt Singh has also refused to accept the ploy adopted by the Chief Minister to shift the blame to the failure of the central agencies, especially the Border Security Force (BSF) to prevent international smuggling. He pointed out that the name of Mr Badal's relative had figured in a racket where synthetic drugs were manufactured in pharmaceutical facilities in the State and neighbouring areas. He pointed out that many of those arrested could be linked to other Akali leaders as well.
The AAP candidate from Sangrur, Bhagwant Mann, who is a comedian and satirist, highlights the issue at his public meetings. One of the videos of his such meeting that went viral online shows an old lady requesting audience with the Chief Minister, as her son had turned an addict after he received the free liquor during the campaigns for a previous elections.
A Ludhiana based organisation, “Belan Brigade” that has the rolling pin used in the kitchen as it symbol, has taken upon itself to fight the problem. Led by the founder, Anita Sharma, who is an architect by profession, the brigade's activists have been spreading information as well as trying to motivate women to stand up and oppose use of drugs and other intoxicants to lure their men folk for electoral gains.