Nobody, arguably in any household in Punjab, will plead ignorance about two ill-famed words — chitta (a synthetic drug made from heroin) and teeka (injection). These have become household names of sorts in Punjab and underline the rot that exists. Families, many in appalling poverty, have been devastated due to drugs and ensuing deaths.
Every other house in Maqboolpura village on the outskirts of Amritsar has a tragedy that they attribute to drugs. Tragedies multiplied for 59-year-old Shashi Devi when she lost all three sons to drugs, one after the other. It is heart-wrenching to see a teary-eyed Shashi pointing at the photographs of her sons.
Sukhjinder Singh (34) was found dead with a teeka inside his vein on June 6. He worked as a daily wage labourer. His wife, Jasbir Kaur (32), struggled to keep her suicidal tendencies away after her husband died of suspected drug overdose. Her one leg is crippled due to polio. But she has no other option but to work in the fields to make a living and raise their children, Samsher (8) and Manpreet (6). The family lives in a one-room dwelling unit. Jasbir knew her husband fell to drug addiction five years ago. But she had no money to put him in a de-addiction centre. The family claims Singh came in contact with some local drug peddlers after which he started consuming drugs regularly. Jasbir sees hope in her kids and wants them to study hard and become something in life. “They go to the village government school,” she said.
There are some common factors in a majority of cases of drug deaths. The supply of drugs in the villages and other rural areas is steady and unabated. The easy availability of drugs, including synthetic ones, is a major reason for the prevalence of substance abuse among the youth. In many cases, there appears a role of vested interests in ensuring that the supply remains constant. Experts opine that a large number of addicts who get treated would tend to restart consumption of drugs sooner or later. Experts believe that lack of jobs and frustration among youth have also led to the crisis in Punjab.
Punjab’s notoriety as a ‘drug state’ has remained since long. But the spate of drug-related deaths in the recent past has triggered the community to pitch into square the circle. In many villages, the community has taken it upon itself to admit reluctant addicts to drug de-addiction centres and outpatient clinics for treatment. In several villages, awareness rallies by women are gathering steam.
The state government’s recent decision to recommend death penalty for first-time drug peddlers may have its flip side. Experts feel that organised drug mafia often exploits drug addicts who are made to double up as drug ‘couriers’. This becomes their first step into the crime world.