Shimla: The hill state of Himachal Pradesh is facing a problem of drug addiction, quite like neighbouring Punjab, with the chief minister Jai Ram Thakur admitting that around 27 per cent of the youth in the state are hooked to drugs.
Himachal was earlier notorious for drugs like marijuana which was grown in the hills and consumed by foreigners. However, now the availability of synthetic drugs and entry of notorious chitta (heroine) has become a cause of concern for the state’s law enforcing agencies.
Apart from these, MDMA commonly known as ecstasy and liquid lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), are also in circulation and the youngsters are hooked to a whole lot of pharmaceutical drugs like cough syrups, anti-depressants and sleep-inducing pills which are affordable on account of their low cost.
The fact that Himachal has emerged as hub for pharmaceutical industry has made it easy for smugglers to procure such drugs.
According to sources in the police department drug smuggling has now become a multi-dimensional problem in the state as foreigners, locals and now smugglers from other states of the country resorting to barter of synthetic drugs for hashish or marijuana.
It is an open secret that marijuana and hashish have been grown, consumed and smuggled out of Himachal for decades. Now the drug mafia has grown to an enormous size and the influx of synthetic drugs and abuse of pharmaceutical drugs pose a big challenge.
Director general of police (DGP) S.R. Mardi recently said 230 kg of charas has been seized from drug peddlers this year. He said the police have sensitised over 600,000 people on ill-effects of drugs.
The number of cases registered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act in Himachal Pradesh has more than tripled in last decade.
The chief minister had recently said that a Special Task Force (STF) has been constituted to effectively campaign against the drug peddlers and three State Narcotics Crime Control units have been set up at Shimla, Kangra and Kullu.
While the Punjab government is pushing for death for drug smugglers, there seems to be lack of unanimity among Himachal politicians on taking such a tough stand, said sources close to Mr Thakur.
The growing narcotics menace has affected a good number of youth in Kullu, Manali, Mandi and Shimla. The narcotics trade has particularly become organised in Kullu area where a large numbers of tourists, mostly foreigners, pour in every year. In order to make a quick buck local farmers clandestinely cultivate poppy or cannabis crops.
O.P. Sharma, a retired officer from the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), while referring to Mr Thakur’s statement on 27 per cent youth being hooked to drugs said, “At least the government has understood the gravity of the problem. It needs to be seen from where this 27 per cent figure has been derived.”
Mr Sharma said the state needs an autonomous Narcotics Control Board that has extremely fair and professional members.