Drugs and Punjab: The Never-Ending War

by Shivangi Goel


The problem of drug abuse in India derives its origin from Punjab which itself is fighting a war against drugs since time immemorial. Every3rd person in Punjab is facing the problem of drug abuse.[1] This inherent problem in Punjab has derived its roots from that areas or regions in Punjab which are sharing their borders from the neighboring countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan who in turn making huge amounts of profits at the cost of lives of people. Punjab is the main hotspot for all the illegal drug abuse, trafficking and shares its network throughout the country. Drugs such as heroin, smack, charas, pills, cocaine are dispelled to the other parts of India and the world through the state of Punjab. It is not only the unemployed section of the youth that is captured in the clutches of drug abuse but women, household workers are also not left unpardoned. No matter how many routes are choked and peddlers are arrested there is no end to this vicious circle. The drug trade originates from Afghan poppy fields to rural Punjab and living rooms of Ludhiana and Chandigarh, touching a wide range of people associated with different discipline and occupation such as the unemployed rural youth, urban rich brats, spoiled college girls, bored housewives and even cops.[2]


Afghanistan is the biggest supplier of opium in the world and almost 90% of the world’s opium comes for Afghanistan and being the source of finance of Taliban it is the major issue of contention for all the countries. During 2017, Afghan farmers gave more land to opium cultivation than at any other time since UNODC monitoring began. A year later, the area under cultivation had plummeted by 20 per cent to 263,000 hectares. As a result, the amount of opium produced also dropped sharply, from roughly 9,000 tons in 2017 to an estimated 6,400 tonnes a year later – a 29 per cent reduction.[3] While cultivation remained historically high, the amount of money farmers made from opium in 2018 tumbled by 56 per cent from 2017 levels – from US$1.4 billion to US$604 million[4]. However, Afghanistan is not the only source of in Punjab it gets its supply from countries such as Africa and Pakistan and it is manufactured locally as well in small pharmaceutical industries.

The drugs can be transferred easily from the Indo-Pakistan border and 1 kg of drug that costs around 5 lakhs in Pakistan shoots up to 15-20 times its cost when it enters India.[5] Drug peddlers choose meandering rivers and streams as the safest path to transfer drugs across the border, some of them use some use innovative ways such as sliding in drugs in plastic pipes through the barbed wire at the international border. Other than this they have strong connections with security forces so that if any glitch happens the plan is changed in the last moment. The most reliable peddlers are the drug addicts themselves as they always have the motivation that peddling drugs would help them to get their own fix and they can be trusted easily for big transactions. According to a report, more than 100 Punjab Police personnel have been arrested for smuggling drugs or abetting the trade since 2014[6].

The drug smugglers establish their market in the glorious music and movie industry of Punjab and these places promote the usage of drugs and sets the impression that it is really cool to do this, as a result of which teens who are fascinated by them blatantly follow their culture. The Bollywood movie Udta Punjab also tried to show the prevalent drug culture in Punjab.

No one in our society is bereft of the negative consequences of the drug usage be it youngsters, middle aged group persons, married women, migrant laborers, slums dwellers etc. It is often seen that how young minds lose their control to drugs being influenced or pressurized by their peers, and end up ruining their life and the life of their family workers too. Many successful people have also fallen into the pit of drug addiction. All these people commonly believe that drugs would solve their problems and help them get of their mental depression whereas youth either does it thinking it might be cool or just under the peer pressure. Many people have lost their dreams and even their jobs. Sometimes people get dragged into this without their  consent as they  are born and brought in that kind of environment.

At least one member in each family is addicted to drugs which as a result give rise to negativism, criticism and feeling of denial between addicted and non-addicted family members. Many children lack necessities including shelters if one of their parents is addicted. Drug peddlers often involve poor children in their peddling business and the needy children ending up getting sexually assaulted in the process. Addiction is a chronic disease in this state. Even after witnessing the adverse effects of drug abuse still the majority of the population wants drugs to be legalized like other foreign countries such as Canada and Thailand did. They contend that even after criminalizing the usage of drugs, it has not shown any significant decrease in the abuse. They also wish that drugs should be granted similar status as other poisons such as cigarettes and alcohol.


My interpretation of this problem is that drugs should not be legalized at any cost. Examples can be taken from Colorado where marijuana was legalized where death rates accelerated as compared to previous years. From 2011 to 2014, the number of hospitalizations related to marijuana nearly doubled, from 6305 to 11439; in Colorado[7].Legalization of drugs will increase the demand for more rehabilitation centers which in turn will affect our economy. If it is easily available there are high chances of it abused among teens. Secondly, drugs should not be kept under the same pedestal as alcohol and cigarettes, drugs are more fatal and addictive.


The thought of legalizing drugs should completely be dropped especially in a country like India and particularly for the state like Punjab where every third household tells the story of drug abuse. Addiction is a family disease, one person uses and the whole family suffers. Everyone in our country needs to get aware about it and government in our country should find effective measures to curb the menace at an early stage. Security forces at the border areas should be alerted all the time and ensure that no transfer of drugs takes place through that route, all the secret routes such as meandering rivers and streams should be kept under strict surveillance and more guards should be present there. Strict punishments should be awarded to all the government officials and cops who are found involved in this illegal activity. Censor board shouldn’t promote all such movies who try to glorify the drug culture. The Music industry in Punjab should stop making the songs which portray the feeling that drugs and all is cool. More job opportunities should be provided to migrant laborers and poor people so that they don’t do any illegal business even if they do not want to do so. More and more rehabilitation centers are the dire necessity of the state. Youngsters and anyone who is depressed should seek psychological treatment rather than using drugs. Parents should also look upon their child and they should openly discuss the ill effects of drugs. Social media can be used as a good platform to spread awareness among the mass. It is high time for people and government to realize that drug abuse is not a small issue and it can destroy their lives as well as the youth of the country.

Opinion expressed by the authors are personal.

[1]Bhuwan Sharma, Anjali Arora, Kanwaljit Singh, Harinder Singh, Prabhjot Kaur, Drug Abuse: Uncovering the burden in Punjab, J Family Med Prim Care. (2017 Jul-Sep; 6(3))

[2] Kshitij Bhargava, The Chitta economy: How the business of drugs works in Punjab,
https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/et-explains/the-chitta-economy-how-the-business-of-drugs-works-in-punjab/articleshow/65634397.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst, (Sep 01, 2018), 02:59 PM

[3] Afghanistan Opium Survey 2018, July 1 2019,https://www.unodc.org/documents/crop-monitoring/Afghanistan/Afghanistan_opium_survey_2018_socioeconomic_report.pdf

[4] Supra 3

[5] Harpreet Bjawa,Punjab STF recovers 188 kg heroine worth Rs 1000 crore, The Indian Express,(January 21 2020,2:01 PM), https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2020/jan/31/punjab-stf-recovers-188-kg-heroin-worth-rs-1000-crore-2097140.html

[6]Jupinderjit Singh, Punjab police battles drug-taint, The Tribune, (July 6 2018 ,1:33 AM), https://www.tribuneindia.com/

[7] John Burke, Why not legalize all drugs, (Dec 15 2016, 8:30 PM), https://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2016/december2016/why-not-legalize-all-drugs

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