Pre-poll Punjab witnesses record heroin seizures

That Punjab is infamous for narcotic smuggling and drug consumption is no secret, but this election the flow of drugs seems to have hit the roof.

Drug seizures being made by Election Commission (EC) squads and police teams in the run-up to the polls is increasing by the day, and is perhaps indicative of the means being used to lure voters.

Consider this: Since the imposition of the Model Code of Conduct till Friday, Punjab has yielded a record haul more than 68 kg of high-priced heroin, estimated at a whopping Rs 340 crore.

EC officials say the quantum of narcotics seized during elections is much more if drugs other than opium are taken into account.

Punjab has high incidents of drug smuggling, primarily because it’s a border state sharing a 550-km fenced boundary with Pakistan on its western frontier—a corridor notorious for flow of drugs into India.

But the amount of heroin being confiscated during the poll-code period provides a glimpse of the magnitude of the rot that exists. The state falls in the line of the international drug trafficking zone dubbed the “Golden Crescent”, and is a major transit and destination point for drugs coming from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Punjab—especially its youth—for long has been grappling with the drug menace, even as it spiralled fast out of control. The State Disaster Management Plan states that some 73 per cent of the state’s youth aged between 16 and 35 are affected by drugs.
Punjab goes to polls on April 30. Political parties see this extended window, unlike in some other states like Haryana, which goes to polls on April 10, as a long period for campaigning. There is every possibility that the flow of drugs towards the fag end of campaigning in Punjab will increase, much to Punjab’s disadvantage and misfortune.
During the last Assembly elections in Punjab in 2012, liquor seizures were rampant, but seizure of heroin in such huge amounts ahead of the general elections has set the alarm bells ringing.

Weapon menace

In Punjab, the other worrisome part is that despite the deadline for depositing firearms with the authorities expiring last month, there are still over 66,000 licensed firearms yet to be deposited as per rules, and pose a threat during elections.

Advocating ethical means in elections, the EC says all flying clubs in the state are being roped in to air-drop pamphlets to not only encourage voters but also promote ethical voting. During the Assembly polls, a seven-day anti-drug campaign was spearheaded in Punjab by Supreme Court Advocate H S Phoolka, who is now campaigning as an Aam Aadmi Party candidate from Ludhiana.

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