Chandigarh, October 21: The Congress could not have raised this issue when the party ruled the state from 2002-2007 with Capt. Amarinder Singh as the chief minister. It was the Akali Dal in opposition that took strong notice of the scourge of drugs affecting the youth in the state. That was in 2004 going by the record of this party. None would have visualised at that time that this issue would come to dictate the electoral political discourse in Punjab more than a decade later putting the ruling with the Akali Dal on defensive. It is a strange irony.
Rattled by the “Chitta Ravan” campaign launched by the Congress to corner the ruling Akali Dal on the drug menace, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Friday launched counter-offensive and attacked both the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party on the basis of empirical evidence that has appeared in the media earlier. The data pertained to the drug test conducted by the state government during recent recruitment to the police. This was the largest ever sample with 3.75 lakh persons having undergone this test in the state. Only 1.7 per cent tested positive that also included performance enhancement drugs. The tests were conducted by teams of doctors under the supervision of the Baba Farid University of Medical Sciences. Neither the tests nor the result can be questioned.
He once again attacked Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi whose statement in Panjab Univsrsity here that about 70 per cent of the youth in Punjab were using drugs had created the storm. The fact was that his observation was distortion of the survey conducted by the Guru Nanak Dev University. The survey had reported that 70 per cent of the druggists were youth. This was different from saying that 70 per cent of the youth in Punjab were on drugs. The Akali Dal has been on the defensive. But then this is the issue that is talked about in the village streets now.
“Capt Amarinder Singh and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal should be declared enemies of Punjab and Punjabis. Both of them have lost mental balance. Punjabis are innocent. We are fighting nation’s war”, Sukhbir said at a news conference here. He called upon the media to treat the drug issue as a closed chapter henceforth. However, the issue can’t be wished away. It is the Akali Dal that was the first party to express serious concern over this menace. The party should study its own documents.
This is what the party promised under the caption Drug De-addiction Campaign: “The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee would launch de-addition campaign at a massive scale to wean away the youth and to check this growing menace that has hit society”. This is from page 12 of the Akali Dal manifesto for 2004 elections to the general house of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.
This manifesto starts with an Appeal from then Akali Dal President Parkash Singh Badal. Serious note has been taken of increasing use of liquor and drugs. The Akali Dal leaders are in the habit of overlooking party’s documents that make interesting study of the functioning of this second oldest political party in the country.
By 2011 SGPC elections, Sukhbir Singh Badal had taken over as the party president. In a similar appeal, he too had expressed similar concern on page 2 of the manifesto.
That might be years back and leaders of this stature are not supposed to remember such manifestos. But then Sukhbir should refer to his party manifesto for 2012 Assembly elections. This is what has been written on page 23 under the caption SPORTS AND WAR ON DRUGS: “10. 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”. The party might have known the magnitude of this problem by 2012 as it had been ruling the state since 2007.
The empirical evidence based upon the drug tests in police recruitment is irrefutable evidence as to how the state has been painted black. However, that was not without any basis. Similar results had come earlier during recruitment by the army when about 15,000 people had undergone the test.
Now the issue is of changing people’s perception and this can’t be done by going into denial mode. If the party recognised this reality way back in 2004, there is no reason to deny the same more than a decade later. The situation is not that grave as being portrayed by the Congress and AAP and it is this aspect that has to be hammered.