An issue in state electoral politics

Tracking the electoral political scene in the neighboring state of Himachal Pradesh one notices how the issue of drug abuse has invited the attention of political parties.

The two leading parties BJP and Congress have one thing in common in their poll campaign – the urge to rid the state of menace of drugs if elected to power.

Reportedly Himachal Pradesh has recorded the highest number of Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substance (NDPS) cases after Punjab. In 2017 Bollywood brought the issue of “narco-politics” out in the open through fictitious movie “Udta Punjab” flying Punjab.

Come elections in Jammu and Kashmir the issue of drug abuse will figure prominently in the campaigning of contesting political formations. The drug abuse and unemployment have become political issues in state politics in India.

The entire law enforcement structure in alliance with educational institutions are involved in the campaign against drugs and the situation is increasingly becoming difficult on account of myriad reasons which ought to have become subject-matter of discussion at multiple levels.

It is appropriate to have a rough estimate of the problem in three neighboring states which are simultaneously experiencing demographic change. We feel strongly that creating more and more productive and profitable jobs can be a necessary intervention to save the life and living of the youth.

Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir

The three neighboring states are badly affected by the menace of drug abuse and need to evolve a collaborative and coordinated action plan to destroy the drug economy.

The scale of drug use has been on the rise in the hilly state of Himachal Pradesh and as per the 2021 National Crime Records Bureau Report Himachal recorded the second highest number of cases under the Narcotics Drugs and psychotropic Substance Act (NDPS) 1985 after neighboring Punjab. .

The use and abuse of drugs was never an election issue in Himachal. Addressing a rally at Chamba recently, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said: BJP will make the state drug free if voted back to power, adding that the party will give Himachal youth a foray into new opportunities”.

The fact that 25 to 27 percent of youth below 40 years of age take drugs is bound to make it a poll issue. In 2017 elections in Punjab PM Modi agitated the issue and Congress party on its part attacked BJP/Akali Dal coalition government of being soft towards the drug racket operative in Punjab.

According to a study conducted by the Community Medicine Department of PG Institute of Medical Education and Research over 03 million people accounting to 15.4 percent Punjab population are consuming one or the other kind of drugs. For youth in Jammu and Kashmir apart from pressures of unemployment drug abuse has become an escape route from uncertainty and hopelessness that has engulfed the region.

According to a report by the National Drug Dependence Treatment Center (AIIMS) over 06 lakh people in Jammu and Kashmir are victims of drug abuse and 90 percent of whom are in the age group 17 to 33 years. The ugly dimension of the problem is that women are increasingly becoming victims of the menace. Last month a twenty year old young man from Waghama village Bijbehara died in sleep due to overdose of drugs.

The three states discussed above share many things apart from a common neighborhood. First, Himachal and Kashmir are hilly states and are dependent upon government jobs. As hilly states these were entitled to a special treatment as special category states. Both states face the problem of educated unemployed youth.

The growth and development of agriculture and horticulture in two states has seen ups and downs. The private investment has largely escaped both states and hence the acute crisis of development. From the other side Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab are border states and are in the line of fire when it comes to drug trade through the international border.

Second, both states saw massive destruction during long years of militancy and youth became the cannon fodder in the conflict. The private investment is reluctant to step in these states due to lack of good infrastructure and positive push by the reluctant central government.

The three states cannot reap the benefits of demographic dividend if positive and corrective steps are not taken to mainstream the young constituency. The youth are to be made politically empowered, ethically sound and culturally confident.

It is in this context that cooperative and collaborative institutional mechanisms must be crafted by the three states to mitigate the sufferings of the people. The benevolence of the union government is very much needed.

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