Art & Culture

Why Punjab has a drug problem: Call the film Udta Sikh

Harmeet Shah Singh
Harmeet Shah SinghJun 15, 2016 | 09:29

Why Punjab has a drug problem: Call the film Udta Sikh

Now that the Bombay High Court has been generous with Udta Punjab, I'd have taken at least one liberty if I'd been the filmmaker.

I would have tweaked the movie's title because I am not sure an entire culturally diverse Punjab is high on drink and drugs.

Let's have a look at the state's demography: it's predominantly rural; it's predominantly Sikh.

A religious breakdown of the 2011 Census figures released last year shows Sikhs make up a majority of the state's village population. Around 1.25 crore Sikhs live in rural Punjab and some 37 lakh in urban.


On the contrary, most of the state's Hindu population of 1.06 crore is city-based.

Punjab's scourge of drug addiction and alcohol abuse is more pronounced in its villages.

When I travelled across the state from Malwa to Doaba to Majha, most of addicts I met were young village men. And most of them were Sikhs.

I found the state's Hindu and other minority communities were largely - and fortunately - insulated from the menace because their elders continue to exercise strict restraint over both meat-eating and drinking, forget drugs.

Udta Punjab producer Anurag Kashyap. 

So, if I were Anurag Kashyap, I would tweak the film's title to "Udta Sikh".

Now, the intriguing question why mostly Sikhs have landed in drugs that too in the heartland of a faith that had a valorous history, a faith that prohibits intoxicants, a faith that espouses disciplined life.

Of late, the ruling Badals have been accused of patronising drug trading in the state.

Hold on.

Organised gang activities involving drug trafficking in countries as far as Canada have also reportedly had a strong Punjabi - mainly Sikh - connection.


You don't have the Badals or the Majithias operating there.

To hit the nail on its head, most Sikhs in and from Punjab have embraced intoxicants culturally.

It's no longer a Punjab of singers Asa Singh Mastana, Surinder Kaur or even Gurdas Maan.

Singers of today's Punjab glorify debauchery, drugs and alcohol.

"Chaar Bottle Vodka" had its origins in the state.

Now that's not clear who's inspiring whom. Is it the singers influencing an addicted population or vice-versa?

But one thing is certain that both are complimenting each other.

So, if it's a cultural problem spanning continents, it's the culture and its patrons that have to come forward to find a solution.

Sikhs have a historical tradition of congregating as Sarbat Khalsa (means a gathering of hundreds of thousands) whenever they met with a crisis.

The drug menace is one of the worst crises threatening an entire community.

Get the few best and the most seasoned Sikhs together from Punjab and from across the diaspora. Hold that Sarbat Khalsa anywhere. In any country.

But, brainstorm the ways and means to bring the Udta Sikh back to his roots.

Last updated: June 15, 2016 | 18:20
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