Cong-NDA clash in RS over drug menace in Punjab

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The issue of drug abuse, particularly among the youth in Punjab that goes to polls in a few months, rocked Rajya Sabha on Thursday as members of ruling NDA and opposition Congress traded charges and indulged in heated exchanges during Question Hour.

While asking supplementary questions, Congress leader Ambika Soni said “the government is not serious about the problem of drugs and that is why no survey has been conducted by it on the extent of the abuse.”

Citing a survey, she said almost 60-65 per cent of the youth in Punjab have been in direct contact with drugs, she said “you cannot keep it under the carpet any more,” she said, asking whether the government had any central scheme to augment setting up of rehabilitation centres in Punjab.

Other Congress members from Punjab, Pratap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo were also on their feet trying to make their points but were disallowed by Deputy Chairman P J Kurien.

Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Vijay Sampla shot back saying a survey was to be carried out every five years and the intentions of Congress were clear from the fact that it did not carry out any such survey in last decade.

While Congress members accused the Akali-BJP combine, ruling Punjab for almost a decade, of not doing anything to check the menace, the members of the ruling alliance accused Congress of not conducting any survey during their tenure to ascertain the extent of drugs abuse and take corrective measures.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi witnessed the heated exchanges for a brief period during the Question Hour, before he left the House.

Sampla said “the figures of 60 per cent youth in the state have taken to drugs is not right and is being wrongly depicted” and added that a rapid assessment survey was conducted in the state but it was not representative as the sample size was small.

Citing another survey, he said, it was found that 2,32,856 people were affected due to drugs but this comes to less than one per cent as the population of Punjab was around 2.77 crore.

“There were seven rehabilitatioon centres in Punjab and our government has added another 28 rehabilitation centres in the state, taking the total of 35 rehab centres,” he said.

Reacting to Soni’s charges, SAD member Naresh Gujral said “there is no basis for all this. She is only making a political statement.”

He said Punjab was currently conducting a recruitment drive in police and has made a blood test compulsory for all men and women participating in it.

“As many as 35,000 men and women have taken the mandatory blood test for recruitment and less than 300 have been found to be positive for drugs,” he said.

Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot said, “our intentions are sincere and we want to rid Punjab of the drugs menace. We have opened 28 rehabilitation centres in Punjab in last two years, raising the total of 35.”

Assembly elections to Punjab are likely early next year.


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