Why Punjab CM Amarinder Singh wants death penalty for drug peddlers

The state has no accurate record of the real number of drug overdose deaths.

 |  3-minute read |   06-07-2018
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Evidently harried at the continuing and rampant supply and abuse of narcotics — chiefly heroin and synthetic intoxicants — Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh wants death penalty for drug traffickers operating in the state.

Taking stock of the situation in the wake of a worrying rise in the number of drug overdose deaths, particularly in the state’s border districts, the chief minister shot off a letter to the Union home ministry demanding that a provision for capital punishment be included in the Narcotics, Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

While Sections 31 and 31-A of the NDPS Act already provide for the death sentence for repeat offenders, an amendment introduced in 2014 makes this optional and leaves it to the discretion of the trial judge.

What Punjab is really now seeking is a mandatory death sentence in the first instance of conviction for manufacture, possession and smuggling of commercial quantities of narcotics, as specified in the Act.

The chief minister’s missive to the MHA follows some rather dramatic developments over the past few weeks.

amarinder-singh_070618105950.jpgPunjab CM is seeking a mandatory death sentence in the first instance of conviction for manufacture, possession and smuggling of commercial quantities of narcotics

Besides close to a score of deaths of young men being attributed to overdosing in drugs, two police officers, including a deputy superintendent (DSP), were charged with pushing young women into drugs.

The events accompanied a sharp rise in the number of drug hauls.

On July 3, four men, including an ex-Army soldier, were held with 15kg of heroin in the Amritsar area; a day earlier police arrested the son of a retired police superintendent, transporting some 40,000 “intoxicant tablets” in his car; and on July 1, Border Security Force personnel recovered 3.3 kg heroin near the Reear Kakkar border outpost (BOP) west of Amritsar city.

All this has served as a wake-up call for the Amarinder-led government, which took office in March 2017 on the solemn promise of rooting out drugs from Punjab.

Within days of assuming charge as chief minister, Amarinder constituted a Special Task Force (STF) under the leadership of Harpreet Singh Sidhu, an additional director general of police.

The officer was subsequently also given overall charge of Punjab’s border districts, which are notorious for both – smuggling of drugs from Pakistan as well for having the highest numbers of users.

udta-punjab_070618110035.jpgEvidence from the streets of Punjab seems to suggest that alternate supply chains have already been established

The STF moved swiftly and quickly choked off existing narcotics supply chains, which for many months drove up street prices of narcotics far beyond the reach of the average junkie.

It predictably caused a flood of drug addicts seeking rehabilitation. But it was clearly not enough.

Evidence from the streets of Punjab seems to suggest that alternate supply chains have already been established and drug availability and abuse may be back where it was during the latter five years of Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party rule.

While Punjab’s health minister Brahm Mohindra says that his department has no accurate record of the real number of drug overdose deaths in the state, he concedes that the reports, mostly originating on social media and subsequently reported by local dailies, are a “matter of concern.”

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

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Writer

Asit Jolly Asit Jolly @asitjolly

Journalist with India Today magazine.

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