Reiterating his demand for a national drug policy, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday underlined the need for more synergy between the Special Task Force, the police and the intelligence wing to eliminate drugs from the state.
Calling for the support of all stakeholders to fight the menace, which he termed a global problem, the Chief Minister said while the neighbouring states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi had agreed to put in place an effective mechanism for tackling drug smuggling, no significant progress had been made.
Asserting his government's zero tolerance to drugs, the Chief Minister attributed the problem to the strong nexus among smugglers, gangsters and terrorists to promote narco-terrorism in the state, as well as Pakistan.
Interacting with the people on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the Chief Minister said most of the drugs, especially heroin, are smuggled into Punjab from Afghanistan via Pakistan, bordering states like Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Delhi and even Nepal.
He termed it a Pakistan conspiracy to weaken Punjab's youth and keep them away from the armed forces. He cited the instances of drug drops via drones, and seizure of 700 kg of heroin smuggled into Punjab through Kandla port.
In addition, several deadly weapons have been smuggled by Pakistan through Uri sector in J&K, he added.
Expressing concern over a recent incident of large drug seizure in Canada, the Chief Minister said it was shameful that the involvement of a few Punjabi youth in the crime had not only defamed Punjab but also brought disrepute to other Punjabis living peacefully across the globe.
On the progress made in the fight against drugs, the Chief Minister said Punjab had successfully got two category gangsters deported -- Sukhpreet Budhha from Armenia in 2019 and Sukh Bhikhariwal from the UAE in 2021.
Gaurav Patiyal was in the process of being deported from Armenia, while Ramanjit Romi, a handler of gangsters, was being brought back from Hong Kong.
Further, efforts were on to bring back gangsters Harry Chattha from Portugal and Gagan Hathur from Australia, he said.
On the Buddy Programme, which was launched on October 2, 2018, with the aim of educating children about the ill-effects of drug abuse, Amarinder Singh said it has so far been implemented in 16,000 educational institutions (government and private), with 7.5 lakh Buddy Groups, comprising more than 37 lakh students and 1.30 lakh Senior Buddies, formed.
On the occasion, the Chief Minister also digitally launched live destruction of seized drugs and narcotics in Amritsar by a special team led by Commissioner of Police, Amritsar, Sukhchain Singh Gill.
The consignment included 659 kg of heroin (worth Rs 1,318 crore in the international market), 3,000 kg of poppy husk, 5.8 crore pills and capsules, 166 kg ganja, 5 kg charas and large quantities of bhang, smack, syrup, injections.
He also launched a week-long state-wide awareness drive by the School and Higher Education Departments.
Earlier, Health and Family Welfare Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said the state government had made considerable progress in tackling drug abuse.
He said medicines worth Rs 70 crore were being given every year to the persons undergoing treatment for drug de-addiction.
The number of persons undergoing treatment had increased from 267,000 to 672,000, with the state government having spent Rs 70 crore to provide free medicines to the patients.
He urged the Chief Minister to introduce a subject on drug awareness in the school curriculum to educate students to refrain from drugs.
DGP Dinkar Gupta said that since Punjab shares around a 550-km border with Pakistan, it has become a major transit route to smuggle heroin, mainly produced in Afghanistan, to other states across the country.
Pakistan has established a huge smuggling infrastructure at the borders to smuggle heroin into Punjab, using different methods including rivers, border fencing, sea route.
He said that over 420 big fish (on the basis of recovery of over 2 kg heroin) were arrested in the last four years.
The state police had also managed to nab the most wanted narco smuggler Ranjit Cheeta from Sirsa, the DGP said, adding that the Special Task Force in January 2020 had busted a narcotic unit in the Sultanwind area of Amritsar with the arrest of an Afghan national, and also confiscated over 190 kg heroin.