Punjab’s ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) launched a ‘drug-free India’ movement by staging unprecedented dharnas against the drug menace in Punjab near the International Border (IB). Party president and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who led threre dharnas close to Attari, Hussainiwala and Sadiqi international checkpoints (ICPs) near Indo-Pak border in Amritsar, Ferozepur and Fazilka, saw a “big conspiracy” to malign the entire Punjabi community .
With its ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) announcing a state-wide drug awareness campaign with the rally of its national president Amit Shah in Amritsar on January 22, Sukhbir also sought to turn the tables on the saffron party, saying the states ruled by it were not ready to stop cultivation of narcotics even as Punjab was willing to compensate them.
BJP chief Amit Shah will kick-start his party’s drive against drugs from Amritsar on January 22 while Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) president Anurag Thakur will lead the 11-day first phase of the campaign, confined to Punjab. The dharnas, which the SAD labeled as part of its “awareness and vigilance” campaign to stop smuggling of drugs from across the border, saw massive participation of people from all walks of life from across the state. The aged, women and youth were seen in full enthusiasm to seek an end ‘once for all’ to the vilification drive against Punjab.
Barring Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, virtually the entire leadership of the SAD participated in the dharnas and they included Ministers, MPs, MLAs, Chief Parliamentary Secretaries, district unit presidents besides SGPC members. Sukhbir said that first a conspiracy was hatched to defame Punjabis as “terrorists” and now they were being branded as “addicts”.
“A propaganda has been going on in this regard and Congress is trying to politicise the issue,” he said. Sukhbir sought to clear the air that Punjab was not a major drug producing and consuming state. Addressing the dharnas which were held for “greater awareness” and “vigilance along the border with Pakistan”, Sukhbir said the Centre should prohibit states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh from “cultivating narcotics” in order to eliminate drug abuse.
“We are rice and wheat producing state unlike Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh that draw huge economic gain of Rs 150 crore to Rs 200 crore annually by cultivating narcotics. How can a country have two laws that allow cultivation of drugs in one state and foodgrains in another?,” he questioned.