By Soumitra Bose/Mukesh Kumar Sinha
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal is a ‘veritable’ “treat” to interview as JUST IN PRINT discovered while interacting with him. Unlike “crude”, “rustic”, “brutish” Punjabis, Sukhbir Singh Badal (also, known as “Badal Jr” ) is suave, patient, mild-mannered, impeccably gentlemanly (unlike Punjabis generally who are just opposite of all that and more barbaric).
Badal Jr is an American in a turban. He thinks big, fancies big cars and lives life kingsize, as you’d expect from one of Punjab’s wealthiest men. He wears many hats: farmer, businessman, politician. Besides succumbing frequently to his global wanderlust, he makes light work of the weekly Chandigarh-Delhi short-hop to oversee interests that range over hospitality, transport, entertainment and exports. The son of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has slowly acquired the ken and swagger befitting the ‘Chief Executive Officer of Punjab’. Badal Sr is still the political face of the Akali Dal, but the generational shift is clear. It’s Sukhbir who runs the show.
That means micro-managing elections, identifying rebels in rival parties, putting up dummies, buying up potential trouble-makers, handling the media.
He’s got a knack for it too. It has been repeatedly already proved. Yet, thermal plants are thirsting for fuel, a land boom has driven out industry, unemployment and farmer suicides are rising. He’s also cohabited with runaway corruption, and Punjab’s drug/alcohol problem. He gives an exclusive interview here.
The way drug scenario has engulfed Punjab, its evident that all your Improve-n-Develop Punjab has given way to it. Your coments.
There is a slanderous campaign against Punjab. Punjab is waging national war against drugs. Nearly 20,000 people associated with the drugs trade have been arrested in Punjab in the last one year alone and drugs seizures in the past 20 months have been over Rs.6,000 crore. That’s why I say, Punjab is “fighting a national war” against drugs. We are fighting a national war. Punjab does not produce drugs. We are a transit point for drugs in India and the rest of the world. The drugs come from the Pakistan-Afghanistan side. We are fighting against this transit war. Since we are in this war, we catch them. So people think ki pata nahin kinna drugs hai itthe (don’t know how much drugs Punjab has). People think that drugs Punjab che hee use ho reha hai (people think that it is all being used in Punjab alone).Half of all the drugs seizures in the entire country are made in Punjab alone. All this is due to effective measures.
In Goa, just about 5-10 cases of drugs are registered in one year. In Punjab, we have put nearly 20,000 people in jail in just one year. Himachal and Madhya Pradesh are drugs producing states. A lot of hashish, opium, bhukki comes from there. Oh taan phadde nahin (They don’t catch much). Despite the success of the Punjab Police and other government agencies in drugs seizures and arresting people connected with its illegal trade, the menace can not be stopped altogether.
We have been able to catch, very effectively, the main guys and the chain below that. And we are keeping a watch. This is a continuous battle, you cannot let it off. The moment you let it off, the things starts againd.
Nowhere in the world, the supply chain of drugs has been broken completely. Like murders, it (drugs trade) cannot be stopped. Whether the US, Canada – anywhere you go, even with the best technology, they cannot stop it. In the US, drugs are available on practically every streetd.
Campaign against drugs in Punjab is being fought on two fronts – busting the drugs cartel and also to ensure that the people who have become addicts are given treatment and brought back to the mainstream of society.
We are working very strongly on the de-addiction front too. Over a lakh people have visited our de-addiction centres in recent monthsd.
I’ll disclose something exclusive to You : in the Rs.6,000-crore international synthetic drugs racket busted by the Punjab Police in recent months, the names of sportspersons, police officers, politicians, non-resident Indians (NRIs) and smugglers have surfaced. Imagine the dimension of drugs in Punjab !
Your comments on Punjab Minister and Your Brother-in-Law Bikram Singh Majitha grilled by the Enforcement Directorate for charges of being involved in a State drug racket.
I want to ask every body, whom do You trust more — the Government or a criminal? It’s ridiculous that we catch and bust the gang, but when a hardcore criminal (Jagdish Bhola), who was arrested six-seven months ago, accuses a minister (Majitha), political parties take advantage of that statement. He (Majitha) is religious, a teetotaler and a vegetarian. And people just get after him on the basis of a thief’s statement.
Rahul Gandhi said 70% of Punjab’s youths are drugg addicts, without going into the research he quoted from — a Guru Nanak Dev University professor’s paper, which found 70% of 1,100 drug addicts interviewed to be youths. Everyone is blasting Punjab. Goa has drugs available off the shelf, they are available on the beaches. Mumbai and Pune have many rave parties. Take the NCRB (National Crime Research Bureau) data. In our state, the total drug cases were 29,000. Goa, 55 cases. Maharashtra which is five times our population, only 1900 cases. Rajasthan, 1,100 cases. Madhya Pradesh, 700 cases. We’ve been most pro active in catching people but are blamed for being pushers of drug addicts. Punjab produces no drugs. Drugs come from the border with Pakistan, Afghanistan. Secondly, drugs come from three other states : Chattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Drugs are manufactured there and those states are earning income that way. Rajasthan has poppy vends. Opium is grown in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. So how can We be blamed? Punjab has no drug lords. Punjab is a transit point. From there, drugs go to Delhi, UP, Maharashtra. For the last three years, we’ve been fighting a full war. Every day, we see drugs worth crores are caught.