Drugs in Punjab prisons trigger police fight

Chandigarh : A controversy over the usage of drugs by inmates in Punjab prisons has become the cause of an open fight between the top police officers.

With the Director General of Police (DGP) for prisons, Shashi Kant, openly pointing to a nexus between the drug mafia and police officials, the fight within the police force has come out in the open. He pointed out that the drug mafia was freely operating inside Punjab jails with the “patronage” of police officials.

The DGP did not stop there. He even said he was under “threat” from the drug mafia as he had initiated steps to control the use of drugs inside jail premises in Punjab.

“I am being pressurised to let go the anti-drugs campaign in jails. But I will not be cowed down by these threats and will continue my crusade against drugs,” Kant said recently in Patiala after inaugurating a gym at the central jail there.

The statements by Kant brought him into confrontation with the Minister for Jails, Hira Singh Gabria, who asked the DGP to provide details of the threats to him.

That was not all.

DGP Anil Kaushik shot off a communication to Kant this week asking him to return three police vehicles – a Toyota Innova, a Maruti Gypsy (on escort duty) and a motorcycle – to the police force.

A defiant Kant refused to return the vehicles saying he was entitled to police security and the vehicles. He pointed out that all his predecessors had been using police vehicles and his case was no different.

Kant had earlier also said he would expose the nexus between the drug mafia and ‘influential people’ in the state.

Punjab, which shares a 553-km-long fenced international boundary with Pakistan, is a major transit and destination point for drugs coming from the Afghanistan-Pakistan route.

Recent studies have indicated that over 60 percent of people in rural areas of the state could be addicted to drugs.

In the last couple of months alone, security agencies in Punjab have recovered nearly 100 kg of heroin – a high-end drug worth over Rs.500 crore in the international markets. In recent years, the seizure of heroin has been in hundreds of kilograms.

With just 1.5 percent of the country’s geographical area, the frontier state has earned the dubious distinction of recovery of the highest volume of drugs in the country in recent years.

Punjab alone has accounted for 60 percent – roughly Rs.900 crore – of the total drug seizure worth Rs.1,500 crore in the country made in just six months (in 2010-11), Home Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal had disclosed earlier.

A senior Punjab police officer, requesting anonymity, said drugs worth nearly Rs.3,000 crore could be transiting or landing in Punjab.

The total drug seizure in the state in recent years is much higher with multiple agencies like the Border Security Force (BSF), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, customs department, anti-narcotics cell of Punjab Police and others involved in the recovery process.

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