April 5, 2017 | By Guestauthors
Chandigarh: The anti-drug drive launched by the Capt Amarinder Singh government with a promise to eradicate drugs from Punjab in four weeks is turning out to be a repeat of the previous SAD (Badal)-BJP government’s 2014 crackdown – arresting people with small quantities, with identical FIRs registered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. The SAD (Badal)-BJP government’s crackdown was criticised the by the Congress, AAP and others for not netting the big fish, but filling Punjab’s jails with tens of thousands of small-time addicts who need treatment more than imprisonment.
Furthermore, the Congress government has stressed it would treat addicts “humanely”, as victims rather than criminals, and put in place a strategy to rehabilitate them. A Special task Force has been formed under ADGP Harpreet Sidhu to go after the big suppliers. Three Inspector Generals are also in the STF.
“I am quite sure that we will be able to meet our deadline of four weeks to take action in the drugs issue. It took me a little time to get Harpreet Sidhu, but now he has all the staff he needs and he has also been travelling in the border districts. He is a doer. I have told him to crack down and get me the big fish. The youngsters who are addicted to drugs must not be touched. They are already flocking de-addiction centres after our crackdown,” Captain Amarinder Singh told The Indian Express in an interview on Tuesday.
Last week , the government announced it had arrested 497 people between March 16 to 29.
It is important to note here that when former DSP of Punjab Police Jagdish Bhola was arrested way in 2015 for his alleged involvement in drug trafficking, along with Badal Dal leaders the name of some senior congress party leaders also surfaced during the primary investigation carried out by Enforcement Directorate (ED).
However, an analysis of the FIRS registered under the NDPS Act since March 16 by The Indian Express tells a different story, one which bears an uncanny resemblance to what the SAD (Badal)-BJP did, except that the numbers of arrests are still only in the hundreds.
In Amritsar Rural, of the nine cases registered between March 14 and April 1, in two cases registered at Ajnala, the recovery was 1 gm of heroin. In one of these cases, 130 tablets were also seized. In another case at Jandiala police station on April 1, it was 5 gms. On March 25, in a case at Chattiwind police station, it was merely 0.6 gms.
Out of 57 cases registered under NDPS Act in different police stations of Kapurthala district from March 16 to April 3, in six cases, the recovery of heroin was less than 10 grams – as low as 1 gram, in one case, and four grams in another. In 15 cases, the recovery was 50 gms or less of “intoxicant material” or “powder”. In four cases, it was less than 100 gms of this powder. In five cases, police recovered 60 or fewer intoxicant tablets.
The biggest recovery of heroin in Kapurthala was 15 gms in a case registered on March 18. The maximum quantity of intoxicant powder recovered was 480 gms in a case registered at Satnampura police station in Kapurthala district on April 3. In another case, police recovered 1530 capsules and 162 injections. One kg of Ganja was recovered in another case registered in Kapurthala district. In an FIR registered at Dinanagar police station in Gurdaspur district on March 28, police booked a resident of Purani Abadi Avankhan under NDPS Act for “consuming heroin while sitting in the bushes”. The FIR says the youth was “inhaling puffs of heroin from a silver paper foil. Police recovered “a lighter from his right hand and a smoke-blackened silver foil”. But no heroin was found on him.
Similarly, in a case registered at Kotwali police station in Kapurthala district on March 23, three persons, two residents of Batala and one resident of Majitha, were booked under NDPS Act after they were allegedly caught consuming heroin in a car. Police recovered a panni foil, a Rs 10 note used as pipe to consume heroin and a lighter from their possession and registered a case under NDPS Act. Again, no heroin was seized from them.
Recoveries of 1 gram and 4 grams of heroin in two different cases in Kapurthala were made from two women. In another case in Kapurthala district, 50 intoxicant tablets were recovered from a woman.
The Patiala police registered some success in recovering bigger quantities: it recovered more than 6 kg of opium in 11 NDPS Act cases, with the maximum recovery of 3 kg made in a case registered at Patiala Sadar police station on March 20. Patiala police also seized 5 quintals and six kg of poppy husk in 11 NDPS cases, with the maximum recovery of 4 quintals in just one case registered at Smana City police station on April 3. In Patiala district, police registered 55 cases under NDPS Act from March 17 to April 3.
But in 14 NDPS cases where smack was recovered from the accused, the recoveries ranged from just 5 gm to 35 gm.
Another giveaway that little has changed are the identical FIRs, usually a red flag that the real circumstances of the arrest may have been different than what is in the document. The pattern of FIRs analysed by The Indian Express reveals that in several cases it has been the same old story as was in previous government – recovery of drugs from a polythene bag in the pocket of the accused.
An FIR registered on March 17 at Police Station A Divsion in Amritsar Police Commissionerate where an accused was booked under NDPS Act for possessing 4 grams of heroin reads that the accused tried to throw away something wrapped in a polythene packet from the right pocket of his trousers and that when checked, it turned out to be 4 gms of heroin. In an FIR registered under NDPS Act on March 27 at Police Station Division C, police recovered 80 intoxicant tablets from an accused wrapped in a polythene bag found in the right pocket of his black jeans.
In FIR dated March 30 in the same police station, “the accused swiftly took out something wrapped in a polythene bag from the right pocket of his trousers and threw it on the ground”. Police found the packet to contain 7 gms of heroin.
The FIR in the April 1 case in Chattiwind in which 0.6 gms of heroin was recovered, says “when the accused saw the police, he suddenly took out a packet wrapped in a polythene from his right pocket of his trousers and threw it”.
Asked about the small amounts being recovered, ADGP Sidhu said: “Suppliers keep very small amount with them. A layman would think it as only 1 gram, but its volume is bigger. 10 packets can be made out of 1 gram of heroin.”
In response to a question on why the police were arresting only addicts, Sidhu said they were peddlers too. “All are not consumers only. Some lower level [addicts] are sometimes lured into peddling by the peddlers who would offer half-a-gram for their consumption to sell another quantity to others. It is very rare that a person is moving around with 4 kilograms of heroin… He will not have more than 3 to 4 grams and he will distribute it very quickly and finish it.”
ADGP Sidhu said they would also seek to rehabilitate such small-time peddlers.
Asked about the near-identical FIRs, he said, “There are only a few places like socks and pockets where a person would hide drugs. There is no doubt that common pattern comes sometimes. We have told officials to register only genuine FIRs and as far as I know only genuine FIRs are being registered. We have stressed in all the meetings that do only genuine work, because nothing is to be gained otherwise.”
Note: The above content was origanally published by The Indian Express under the headline “Punjab: Petty seizures, identical FIRs make it seem a replay of previous govt’s drive” by Navjeevan Gopal at source: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/punjab-petty-seizures-identical-firs-make-it-seem-a-replay-of-previous-govts-drive/
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Related Topics: BJP, Capt. Amarinder Singh, Congress Party, Drug Addiction Problem, Punjab Government, Punjab Politics, Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal)