The controversial film 'Udta Punjab' didn't really exaggerate the drug problem in the state. Latest data on drug related cases and seizures released by the government bears out the fact that Punjab, by far, is the most drug-addicted state in the country.

Data collected by the home ministry and released in response to a parliamentary question earlier this week, show that at least since 2014, Punjab has had the highest number of drug related cases registered in the country. Data show that this year between January and June, out of the 8360 drug related cases registered across the country, 2209, or nearly a fourth, were from Punjab alone. 

In fact, if one looks at the figures from 2014 and 2015, the reality of Punjab’s ugly drug menace shows up even more starkly. In 2014, for instance, out of 23,709 cases nationwide, 9159 were registered in Punjab, while the following year, 10,233 drug related cases, were registered in the state, making up for more than 37% of such cases registered nationwide.

In fact, if one goes by registered cases alone, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala are the other two states that stand out for reporting high numbers of drug related cases, but as compared to Punjab their numbers are significantly smaller.  

A further perusal of the data show that seizures of drugs including cocaine, ephedrine, ganja, hashish, heroin, opium, methamphetamine, mandrax, phensidyl and pseudoephedrine went up several fold in the past two years. 

Data further show that at least five drugs- ganja, hashish, heroin, opium and poppy husk, along with other psychedelic substances, have routinely been seized in Punjab. 

To be sure, a higher number of registered cases does not seem to have resulted in higher quantities of seizures. Data further show that despite fewer registered drug related cases, law enforcement agencies in larger states such as Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal, and even Haryana, Delhi and Assam, have routinely reported much higher quantities of seizures of these and other drugs as compared to Punjab.   

It has been widely reported that huge quantities of drugs are smuggled into Punjab from Pakistan, with which it shares a long border.

The issue of drug addiction seems to have become the single biggest political issue in Punjab, ahead of the 2017 Assembly elections, and the latest data only lends credence to the popular belief that the problem has exacerbated under the coalition government led by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), in which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a junior partner.

In the 2012 state elections, the SAD had secured 56 seats and BJP, its coalition partner had won 12, in the 117-seat Assembly. Their arch-rival Congress could manage only 46 seats.

Manjeet Saini, a Jalandhar-based de-addiction expert, says that he sees 50-60 drug related cases each month, with 12 times as many men as women addicts, mostly teenagers in the age group of 16-20 years. Yet, Saini thinks that the problem of drug addiction in the state has been blown out of proportion. “The scenario is not as bad as has been projected by the media,” he says. “The drawback in Punjab is that there is a lot of NRI (Non-Resident Indian) money. People have a lot of leisure time. The farming community is free. People have given their work on contracts, therefore it appears as if these people are not doing anything except for drugs,” Saini said over the phone.

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