Punjab in the Severe Grip of Intoxicants
There is no exaggeration if one says that the whole of the Punjab is in the severe grip of intoxicants and the situation is alarming. Some say that the bottle has overcome the book.
Here, Bottle stands for all kind of intoxicants; whether made in factories or in the fields,taken in the shape of liquids , powder , tablets, capsules or injunctions. Book refers the reading habit, to read not only books prescribed to pass a particular exam, but extra reading so that one’s knowledge does not remain shallow and one can compete in the world and rise.
Present Position of the Punjab
I will deal only with Punjab of which I have some first- hand knowledge. There the use of alcohol is so common that many Panjabis cannot take food without taking alcohol. Many of them take unlimited quantity of it. There are many authorized liquor stores in a city. Every village has its own. In some villages there is no dispensary , but many drug stores which sell pills and synthetic drug to addicts who cannot afford opium and heroine . These stores are also opened on bus stops, on the roads. There are eight thousand liquor stores in the state. A large share of the state revenue is obtained by the auction of these stores and taxes on the sale of liquor. According to official figures, the Punjab state realized about 2374 crore rupees as excise duty in 2010-11 and consumption of liquor was about 11 liters per month per person.
In villages and especially those of border districts, distilling alcohol is a cottage industry and some families live on distilling and selling it in connivance with law enforcing authorities. You can buy it at any time in any quantity. Opium, heroin, poppy husk and some other intoxicants are smuggled from Pakistan via Rajasthan and West Punjab (Pakistan). About 60% of all illegal drugs confiscated in India are seized at the Punjab borders. Smugglers and their agents who sell them are available in every nook and corner of the state. Some chemists openly sell intoxicating drugs illegally as they are in league with police and excise inspectors.
During election days bottles and synthetic drugs rule the society as voters are lured by the candidates who secretly distribute them free. S. Y. Quaraishi, Chief Election Commissioner of India has remarked, “Drug abuse is unique in Punjab. It is a matter of concern.” Thousands of litters of alcohol and hundreds pounds of drugs were seized during election days as these were meant to lure voters.
At the time of sowing and harvest, labourers are provided with intoxicants to get extra work out of them. At marriages, alcohol is used in large quantity at the cost of health and a lot of money is wasted. I had a chance to attend a marriage in a village and was shocked to see that alcohol was also freely served at the time of breakfast before the marriage ceremony was performed. Sometimes over drunk persons kill someone with their guns and spoil the occasion.
Many college students have fallen prey to alcohol and drugs. Even girl students are suffering from this menace. 70% of the youth of the Punjab take drug. Those who cannot afford inject themselves with synthetic drugs through used syringes or consume some other less costly intoxicating substances . They become H.I.V positive or suffer from other dangerous diseases and ruin the life of the family.
There is no exaggeration if I remark that my Punjab is in the tight grip of alcoholism and banned drugs. Synthetic drugs have become a scourge of the Punjab state where alcohol and opium is prevalent. Record shows that consumption of liquor in the state has increased by 59% during the years 2005 to 2010. The problem is , undoubtedly, immense and worrisome as a majority of addicts are between the ages of 15 and 35.
Its Dangerous Effects
According to latest survey, one person in the Punjab dies every eight seconds due to taking intoxicants. If we add the number of those who are living a miserable life due to this very reason, the number is alarming. In villages, where majority of the Punjabi live, situation is dangerous and it is difficult to find a family unaffected by the ill effects of intoxicants. Most of the elders in villages are opium eaters or used to some type of intoxicant drugs. As alcohol distilled illegally in villages is made without sticking to any specific norm of ingredients, sometimes it turns out to be poisonous and takes many lives leaving many widows and orphans. As it is cheaper than the one sold by the authorized stores, many people, especially the poor, are attracted to it.
Much of the hard earned money of the Punjabis is wasted on intoxicants. This bad habit has made many bankrupt and consequently they commit suicide. A locality in Amritsar city is known as Village of Widows as most of the men of that locality died of drug abuse.
A good number of inmates in the Punjab prisons belong to smugglers , sellers and buyers of these intoxicants. Most of the fights and murders are the result of too much use of these intoxicants. These fights and murders lead to litigation and both the parties are ruined.
Fatal accidents, are so common as most of the drivers, particularly truck drivers, do not drive without taking drinks and intoxicants. Traffic police is not performing its duty well due to reasons known to them.
Health of the inhabitants of Punjab is going down day by day due to frequent use of intoxicants. Youth of Punjab having well built bodies known for their robustness are rare. Many of them are used to drugs and look as if sick. Most of them are anemic due to drugs taken by them and their parents. Their performance in the field of games is not praiseworthy. Only a few qualify for military/police service due to their sound health. While most of parents use some form of intoxicants, their children copy them in their absence and with the passage of time they (children) also do it openly. Parents who themselves take intoxicants fail to control their wards. Consequently the whole generation is spoiled.
Bottle has overcome book to an alarming extent and consequently Punjabis are not good readers. Most of them have lost interest in reading for the sake of acquiring knowledge or pleasure. Libraries in schools and colleges are not used properly. Primary schools have no libraries and in middle schools, if there are some books in the libraries, they remain locked in boxes as there is no librarian. In high schools, there used to be no librarian some years ago, but there are few available now. As extra reading is not encouraged and it has no place in the school curriculum, students rarely get books issued and the library is just a show piece. In colleges, too, libraries are not used as desired as many students have no aptitude for extra reading. While in developed countries like US, even an elementary school has a good library with a librarian helped by volunteer parents. Every student of an elementary school must read a few library books every year. He has to write a report about the book he reads and his teacher watches his progress. Thus students from the beginning develop a taste for reading and this taste helps them in life. Rate of those who quit school midway is worrisome. More than 33% of those who join a school, drop before passing its final examination.
Ill equipped schools and colleges are producing an army of 3rd grade students. Most of them pass examination by using unfair means. Pass percentage of institutions run by the state is very poor. Not even ten % of students finishing their school education join colleges. Parents who are used to intoxicants do not bother and never protest so that the state may take steps to improve the condition of the institutions.
Consequently, Punjab has failed to produce scholars and intellectuals. Share of Punjab in executive posts in the state and federal government is declining as most of the students from Punjab do not pass with high marks exams like IAS, IFS, IRS etc.
Some people suggest that the Punjab state should ban production and sale of alcohol. It will not help unless the neighboring states also ban. Moreover, it would encourage smuggling from those sates, drastically reduce the revenue of the state and increase court cases. It is not possible to do so with only force of law.
Our religious and social leaders should effectively preach against the ill effects of intoxicants . Our religious leaders who command respect should leave their air conditioned rooms , go to villages and tell the people that our religion does not allow use of these intoxicants by quoting from our holy scriptures these lines of Guru Amar Daas and other similar quotations:
ਜਿਤੁ ਪੀਤੈ ਮਤਿ ਦੂਰਿ ਹੋਇ ਬਰਲੁ ਪਵੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਆਇ ॥
ਆਪਣਾ ਪਰਾਇਆ ਨ ਪਛਾਣਈ ਖਸਮਹੁ ਧਕੇ ਖਾਇ ॥
ਜਿਤੁ ਪੀਤੈ ਖਸਮੁ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਦਰਗਹ ਮਿਲੈ ਸਜਾਇ ॥
ਝੂਠਾ ਮਦੁ ਮੂਲਿ ਨ ਪੀਚਈ ਜੇ ਕਾ ਪਾਰਿ ਵਸਾਇ ॥
‘By drinking which, his intelligence departs, and madness enters his mind; he(who drinks) cannot distinguish between his own and others, and he is struck down by his Lord and Master. Drinking it, he forgets his Lord and Master, and he is punished in the Court of the Lord.’
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 554
ਹੋਛਾ ਮਦੁ ਚਾਖਿ ਹੋਏ ਤੁਮ ਬਾਵਰ ਦੁਲਭ ਜਨਮੁ ਅਕਾਰਥ ॥
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1001
‘You taste the weak, insipid wine, and you have gone insane. You have uselessly wasted this precious human life.’
Fight against drugs should start from schools and continue in colleges. School books should contain essays, stories, poems and one act plays showing the ill effects of drugs and alcohol. Essay writing and speeches on the subject should be encouraged and the best participants should be rewarded. A student who enters the school after drinking or taking drugs or uses any kind of intoxicant in hostel should be admonished and punished .
Village Panchayats should request the authorities that no liquor store should be opened in their villages. No liquor vend should be opened within one mile of schools, colleges, religious places and bus stops. Chemist who sell banned drugs should be brought to the notice of the authorities and protests meetings should be held in front of their stores. Ladies who suffer most due to this problem should take a leading part in this agitation.
State must use iron hand of law to stop smuggling, sale of illegal drugs and intoxicants in the state. Excise inspectors and their officers in whose area chemists sell banned drugs with their connivance should be brought to book. Staff of the prisons in which intoxicants are used should be held responsible for negligence. Drivers who drive after taking alcohol and other intoxicants should be given exemplary punishment. State should treat it a social and not a personal problem.
Boards depicting the bad effects of intoxicants and anti drug information should be fixed at crossings and places mostly visited by the people. At the start of every movie in every cinema hall photos showing the ill effects of drugs/ alcohol should be shown on the screen for 5 minutes. Youth should be provided with chances of employment by giving them technical/ professional education and loans to start their own enterprises. Games and tournaments should be encouraged so that the youth should look after their health. Drug treatment centers where habitual users of drugs and alcohol are kept and treated should be opened by social/religious bodies at many places.
State should also establish an effective network of De-addiction centers throughout the state, particularly in prisons, to weed out the drug menace completely. State must earmark a good portion of the income earned by auctioning liquor stores for eradicating the ill effects of intoxicants. It should control its unnecessary expenditure and reduce its dependence on the revenue earned by auctioning liquor vends.
Our Punjab is lagging behind other states of India and the people of Punjab are suffering miserably due to intoxicants. In the state of five rivers (Punjab), sixth river of drugs is flowing rapidly. We should try our level best to save Punjab from the severe grip of intoxicants so that it can lead other states in the field of education. We should aim to see that BOOK overcomes Bottle. This problem should be fought on war footing by the whole society, particularly by social and religious organizations. The addiction to drugs and alcohol is leading to crimes and creating a very dangerous social problem.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2012, All