Punjab: Sukhbir needles BJP, says states under it cultivating drugs

Chandigarh, Jan 5: With ally BJP raking up the drug menace issue in a big way rankling Akali Dal, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Monday sought to turn the tables saying BJP-ruled states were not ready to stop cultivation of narcotics though Punjab was willing to compensate them.

As the relationship with BJP becomes increasingly frosty, Sukhbir, who is Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President, expressed unhappiness over "attempts to project Punjab as a major drug producing and consuming state", remarks which come ahead of BJP Chief Amit Shah's anti-drug campaign in the state.

Punjab deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal

The SAD is under pressure over the drugs issue, especially after the summoning of Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia by Enforcement Directorate in a drug racket case, with BJP too demanding his ouster.

Sukhbir underscored that there is "no drug production" in Punjab. "Not even a gram of any drug is produced in Punjab and it is either coming from across the border or from neighbouring states," the Deputy CM said. "Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh (both BJP ruled states) allow production of drug related plants," he told PTI, adding Punjab had a number of times requested these states to stop this in national interest, but to no avail.

Referring to the three dharnas by SAD today on the drug issue close to the Indo-Pak border in Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Ferozepur districts, Sukhbir said, "Drug menace is a national issue. In fact we are fighting nation's battle against the drug menace. Dharnas are against Pakistan and Afghanistan which are pumping drugs into India using Punjab as a transit point."

Asked if SAD had raised the issue of production of drugs in Rajasthan and MP at their coordination committee meetings with the BJP, Sukhbir said they were told that this generated revenue for the two states.

"We were told by Rajasthan that they annually earn Rs 200 crore from this to which we even told them that Punjab will compensate them for the Rs 200 crore loss," Sukhbir said adding that the two states have licenced Opium Vends. He mentioned that some states "involved in legal sale of drugs even mention it as "income in their annual budgets, which is sad.

There cannot be two set of laws for two states in the same country." Sukhbir said, "we act against drug smugglers and prevent flow of drugs to other states... Despite this Punjab is described as hotbed of drugs."

The number of those arrested in connection with drug trade and use is much more as compared with other states, including Goa, he said. He said "a serious conspiracy has been hatched to defame Punjab on drug issue" and demanded that there was need to ensure greater vigilance at the international border to stop inflow of drugs into Punjab. Besides, he said there was need to impose complete ban on cultivation and sale of opium and poppy husk in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and other states.

Sukhbir said that it was unfortunate that Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi during a visit to Punjab some time back termed 70 per cent youth as drug users.

Terming Punjab as a victim of narco terrorism, Sukhbir said that the political parties should stop "politicising" this issue. "Instead of supporting the Punjab government (on drug issue), some political parties are politicising the issue," he said.

BJP Chief Amit Shah is scheduled to start his party's campaign against drugs from Amritsar on January 22. Sukhbir said every political party has its way of working and said that if invited, he would take part in BJP rallies too.

SAD is holding the sit-in near the international borders "to create mass awareness about drugs" and to also pitch for "greater vigilance along the border with Pakistan" to stop flow of narcotics into the state. "Those opposing SAD dharnas are indirectly supporting Pak's narco terror war against India," he said.


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