Congress MLA and Minister of Local Government, Tourism, Cultural Affairs and Museums of Punjab Navjot Singh Sidhu has caused yet another controversy in the state by hinting towards legalising opium cultivation and its use in the state. The former cricketer and political turncoat gave this statement supporting an earlier statement made by the now suspended Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MP from Patiala Dharamvira Gandhi in support of legalising cultivation, sale and consumption of opium and its by-products poppy husk in Punjab. Sidhu is not new to creating controversies, from leaving the Bharatiya Janata Party and changing his tone in a matter of few days to the hug he gave to the Pakistani Army General on the occasion of the swearing in of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Sidhu is never far away from creating a new one.
The comment from Sidhu was given at the sidelines of the function organised by the Noble Foundation which is an NGO in Punjab. Sidhu said, “I appreciate Gandhi for raising the demand of legalising the cultivation of opium. My uncle used to get opium as medicine from hospital. It is way better than ‘Chitta’ (heroin), which SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia introduced in the state, due to which parents have to see bodies of their children.” Sidhu landed himself in the soup while planning to attack the SAD leader from the state, Majithia has already faced attacks from AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal and his other followers who later on had to apologise. With these kinds of statements however it seems that Sidhu will have to apologise not just to Majithia but to the residents of the state as well.
Punjab, “the land of five rivers” has become infamous for rampant drug menace in the past few years. For years, generations of Punjabi youth have suffered from drug epidemic. There are many causes for this drug epidemic in Punjab. The well to do state has many people coming from even affluent families who fall into the trap of drug peddlers. Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has decided to change this by bringing in a few new rules. Congress leaders from the state cabinet led by Captain Amarinder Singh have passed a bill and forwarded it to the Centre demanding provision of death penalty for drug peddlers and smugglers. This measure has been followed by another one where all the state government employees have been directed to undergo a doping test. In times like these it is surprising how Congress leader Sidhu is raising demands for legalising opium in the state which is reeling from an acute drug crisis.
The Congress government in Punjab has announced free treatment of poor drug addicts at all state owned de-addiction centres and has also asked police not to harass unnecessarily the addicts or their families in any way. These measures have been taken in order to make the state of Punjab healthier and come out of its pitiable present condition. Legalising opium on the other hand will just give a new form of dependency to the addicts and will even add to the numbers of the addicts in the state. What Punjab needs is an efficient drug law and its stringent implementation in the state, the state also needs help from the centre to stop the influx of drugs from Pakistan.
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