To woo voters, candidates promise free opium

Last Updated 14 April 2014, 19:48 IST

Opium appears to be the religion of the masses in the districts near border with Pakistan as the mass scale addiction is being exploited by candidates in the fray to lure voters in Marwar region of the desert state.

Rebel BJP veteran leader Jaswant Singh, interestingly, has promised in his election manifesto to remove if voted to power hassles people of his Barmer-Jaisalmer parliamentary constituency are facing to legally procure doses of controlled opium waste product “Doda Posta”. This belt goes to poll on April 17.

Singh’s promise contradicts the state government’s stand that has stopped giving permits back in 2001 to conform to international treaty signed on drug de-addiction.

The candidates surreptitiously serve Doda in their public meetings and do not hesitate to address their short supply constraint concerns in their political speeches, knowing that the administration is a mute spectator to the ordeal killing generations but has cultural sanction.

Jaswant’s manifesto, which identifies 21 issues for the development of the constituency, states: “The contract system for Doda Posta needs to be abolished and a proper mechanism should be adopted to ensure that it reaches to licence holders through public distribution system”.

The independent candidate in one of the meetings held at Hanuman circle on Sunday had also cautioned people not to get too high after consuming Doda as that would fitter away chances of pushing the button on his “torch” symbol.

Singh is not alone, his rival and BJP candidate Col Sonaram Chaudhary had reportedly also assured adequate supply of the Doda Posta during one of his political mass contact programme.  Other candidates are also illegally supplying the narcotics directly to villagers.

Barmer District Excise Officer (DEO) Mohan Lal confirmed to Deccan Herald that “political parties are serving Doda Posta illegally during their campaign trails”.

He said the Centre had signed a treaty in 2001 to make the country drug free by March 31, 2015. Accordingly, the states were instructed to launch rehabilitation campaigns but the excise officer admitted that nothing has happened so far.

The district administration has stopped giving permits to people to buy narcotics from government retail shops. At that time, the committee would screen application to give permits to people after paying Rs 50 for the entire year. A kilo of opium husk costs Rs 500 in government shops but in black market it is costlier by Rs 200 at least, said a shopkeeper.

The excise records show that officially 2817 and 700 consumers are from Barmer and Jaisalmer respectively but the actual figure of people getting stoned regularly is 25,000 alone in Barmer, confided Mohan Lal.  Poppy is officially grown in eight districts including in Chittorh, Jhalawad, Baran, Kota and Bhilwara.

A senior police officer in Jaisalmer accepted on the condition of anonymity the endemic proportion  narcotic addition has acquired in communities cutting across religion and castes. He, however, said that if police puts too much pressure it would lead to a law and order problem not only here but in Jodhpur, Jhalore, Bikaner, Pali, Sirohi and Churu districts of the state.

(Published 14 April 2014, 19:48 IST)

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