Chandigarh, June 18: Two young people, Manjinder and Neeshu, died due to overdose of drugs in Punjab yesterday. It did not make front page news as that space was given to Udta Punjab, the film that hit the screens yesterday after a lot of controversy about its being motivated to malign Punjab. Ever since Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi raised the issue of drug menace in 2012 that in fact was a distortion of the Guru Nanak Dev University survey, Deputy Chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has been in denial mode with the counterattack that the opposition was out to malign the state on this issue, the way the Sikh youth were earlier stigmatized as terrorists.
Neither Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal nor Sukhbir reacted to these two deaths. Death, after all, is the ultimate reality. These two deaths expose the ugly face of this once the most progressive and prosperous state.
Now coming to the basic issue that has been raised in the headline as it directly relates to the Akali Dal in general and both father and son in particular. Perhaps both of them don’t know as to what has been written under their names on the issue of drug menace. Interestingly, seven years separate the two appeals which otherwise are the mirror image of each other but for the fact that the first one is under the name of Parkash Singh Badal and the second one under the name of Sukhbir Singh Badal.
They should not have overlooked what they have themselves admitted. Here is what Parkash Singh Badal said in 2004 manifesto released under the caption ‘Shiromani Akali Dal Da Panthic Agenda’ for election to the general body of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, “Here I want to refer to the negative tendencies and value system that are affecting the Khalsa Panth. The first one is increasing use of liquor and drugs”. The manifesto begins with the appeal signed by Badal in which notice has been taken of the drug problem.
The same line without any change appears in 2011 Akali Dal manifesto for general election to the SGPC with the change that this ‘appeal’ is in the name of Sukhbir Singh Badal as president of the Shiromani Akali Dal. The people who wrote both the manifestos perhaps thought that manifesto is a piece of paper that nobody remembers.
Now go to page 12 of the 2004 manifesto that Sukhbir must read so that he should realize that it was his own party that started maligning the Punjabi youth as druggists. This might be due to the reason that it was the Congress that was ruling in the state with Capt. Amarinder Singh as the chief minister.
This is under the sub-title of ‘De-addiction Campaign’ whereby it is stated: “In accordance with the cardinal principle of welfare of all, the de-addiction campaign would be launched not only just for Sikh youth but for all Punjabis to check its spread under which de-addiction centres would be set up”. The SGPC perhaps forgot to set up these centres and hence promise was repeated in 2011.
There was change in priority as de-addiction campaign came up as the third objective of the Akali Dal in 2011 manifesto on page 15. This time, the party took notice of the fact that the menace had taken roots and promised to launch this campaign not only in Punjab but also in other states. Sukhbir should have read at least this manifesto that was released under his name.
But then in 2012 too, Sukhbir had referred to this problem in his party manifesto for the Assembly election. It is stated on page 23, “Zero tolerance on drugs. Besides nabbing drug peddlers and controlling drug mafia, efforts would be made to have a vast network of drug de-addiction centres to be run professionally”.
Rather than giving credit to Rahul indirectly for focusing on this menace, Sukhbir should come out to claim that his party was alive to this scourge way back in 2004. He should have neither left it to the film ‘Udta Punjab’ to create awareness against drugs.
Political parties should start taking serious note of their respective manifestos rather than indulging in blame game.
The Akali Dal should have shown at least some commitment towards implementing manifesto for the SGPC that is known as mini-Parliament of the Sikhs rather than trying to trivialize such a serious issues.
In case this had been done, these two lives might have been saved.