October 26, 2012 · 0 Comments
A story connecting some of the South Asian truck drivers with smuggling of drugs across North American borders appeared in Toronto Star that raised many eyebrows here and back home. Having been rounded up for their alleged unlawful activities, these men are now facing court cases both in Canada and USA where some have pleaded ‘guilty’ and others ‘not guilty’. Whatever is the outcome of court, the damage they have done to the community’s excellent image is irreparable. Their greed for easy money brought down the heads of the entire community with shame.
Back home in India, the news on this score weren’t better either. Rahul Gandhi India’s federal ruling party icon last week mentioned that 70 percent of Punjab’s youth was drug addicted. Instead of taking a serious note of the sad situation prevailing there, his words triggered an acrimonious political debate in Punjab. The ruling Akali Dal Party’s query to Gandhi, as to how the congress leader came to this ‘mathematical conclusion’, invited harsher replies from Congress Party high-up. Amidst this political hullabaloo, the social evil of drug addiction in Punjab eventually got sidelined.
Punjab drugs scenario
Punjab, known as the land of Gurus, Sufi saints, Pirs and Faqirs had also been the abode of valiant fighters, who never allowed any invader from India’s North Western borders to go unchallenged through its soil, right from the days of Alexander’s invasion, to the times of crumbling Mughal Empire. The guns and ammo of the enemies never frightened Punjabis who now were losing a battle on another front — booze and drugs!
Punjab, the land of sturdy farmers and also called the ‘food bowl’ of India, now lives in agonizing stupor with an ever-increasing number of drug addicts. Drugs have degenerated all sections of society; men, women, youth, the rich and the poor. For the poor, ‘bhuki’ grows like wild grass and is freely available in the fields. Once hooked onto that, addicts take to consuming cough syrups, tablets and then explores into the alluring menu of ‘charas’, ‘ganja’, smack ,lizards’ tails, smelling petrol and even iodex spread on bread, in fact anything on earth to get that heady feeling.
Thanks to globalization, big malls on agriculture land have come up in Punjab that pushed up farm land prices. Crores of rupees went into farmer’s wallets that made them rich all of a sudden but they lost land to till. Prudent among them have purchased agriculture lands and/or modern dwelling units in cities where as some others unfortunately turned alcoholics and drug-addicts. Now the poor farm laborers, the jobless and other destitute drown their miseries in illicit liquor and cheap sedatives, those well-off lived in world of fantasy with booze, opium and heroin, etc.
Punjab‘s three regions of Majha, Malwa and Doaba have their own tales for going druggie. International border divided Majaha region from Pakistan through which Afghanistan’s heroin and opium are smuggled non-stop into India for local consumption, as also for its onward illegal worldwide export. Malwa has national border with Rajasthan from where Punjab acquired ‘bhuki’, contraband here, but sold openly in Rajasthan. Thanks to the police connivance on both sides of the border, crossing it with contraband posed no problem. Doaba has large number of its people settled abroad who send money back home, and purchasing intoxicants with that was the most pleasing thing to do. Such state of affairs was sure to leave its mark on face of Punjab.
Consequently it appeared as if a whole generation here is as good as destroyed and not a single village or city is without its score of drug addicts. Nearly two years back in these columns we, wrote about Maqboolpura, a village in the heart of Amritsar, that came to be known as ‘widow village’ because almost every home there had lost some of its male members to the menace of drugs. The tale of Punjab these days on this score is sad and endless!
Scenario was nastier in Canada where increasing number of South Asians were getting involved in drug smuggling activities here. Ecstasy, marijuana and cocaine are three major drugs that are smuggled across US-Canada borders. Cocaine prepared from Coca leaves come to Canada from US side, whereas Ecstasy and marijuana from Afghanistan reached Canada via South Asia and sent to US from here. Time and again, involvement of South Asians in these nefarious activities have been traced. “Of the 15 to 18 significant drug seizures at the Windsor-Detroit crossing each year, about 70 per cent involve Indo-Canadian transport drivers”, inform government authorities.
Drug peddler also store and market drugs in GTA. Sometimes back, media reported a case in which three South Asians — a brother and sister from Brampton and another from Toronto, were arrested after a big haul of high-grade heroin along with $ 650,000 in cash were recovered from them. Earlier sale of ‘Dode’ (poppy husks, dried and grounded) at local flower and meat shops in Brampton and Malton caught media’s attention after police had arrested and charged 22 men in Ontario with drug trafficking-related offences.
If a recent report published in Times of India, an Indian daily, is to be believed then Canada-based international drug mafia is now roping in young Indo-Canadian youths to smuggle heroin from Punjab on allurement of handsome returns, According to the daily, one Sarabjit Singh, 22, a Canadian national of Indian origin, was arrested at Amritsar Airport while trying to smuggle 2.9 kilograms of heroin valued at around Rs 15 crores in the international market. Sometimes back, a UN report said that Canada was fast becoming a hub of international drug trade. In another report it stated that international drug trade was next only to Arms trade only with a difference— while arms travel from developed countries to developing world, drugs moved in the reverse direction.
In the end
Drugs by themselves are neither good nor bad but depends how you use those. Only a thin line divided good (medicines) from the bad (contrabands), what is a medicine here may be converted into stimulants there, both called drugs. For example, the ephedrine salt, good for decongestion, was an illicit drug in the form of methamphetamine. Similarly the hydrochloride of Cocaine is useful as anesthesia but if taken for its euphoric effect it becomes compulsive psychological need. Heroin is another strong addictive narcotic but morphine as its derivative is useful for medical purposes.
Drugs are consumed by swallowing, inhaling or injecting, whatever the mode, the damage those have already inflicted in Punjab was immense. Due to drug addiction many died young, while others contracted dreadful diseases like AIDS and were destined to die soon if still alive. Many disposed their lands to purchase drugs and have become paupers. Once prosperous and vibrant, Punjab has now towns and villages and families ruined and devastated by drug addiction.
We think only a combo of strict policing and social awareness against drug abuse can stall further ruination of Punjab, otherwise Punjab may have crops of Sarabjit Singhs who, allegedly, for few bucks, will put destiny of people and the province at stake.