Panchayats that report 100 pc drug-free villages to be given special grants: Amarinder

Chandigarh, Jan 31 (PTI) Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday said the panchayats that report 100 per cent drug-free villages will be given special grants.

He said the state had witnessed a 'massive decline' in the number of deaths due to drug abuse as a result of the efforts of the government and police.

'As part of the incentives programme, panchayats that report 100 per cent drug-free villages will be given special grants,' Singh told a press conference here.

Replying to a question, he said, 'As far as rehabilitation was concerned, the Buddy and DAPO programmes (aimed at wiping out drug menace) were working well and so far around 3.5 lakh drug victims had visited the rehabilitation, OOAT (Out Patient Opioid Assisted Treatment Centres), and de-addiction centres.' The deaths due to drug abuse have come down from 114 in 2018 to 47 in 2019, the chief minister said.

He was sharing details of the seizure after the Special Task Force (STF) of the Punjab Police seized 194.15 kg heroin and other contraband with an estimated value of Rs 2,000 crore from a rented house in Akash avenue in Sultanwind village of Amritsar district.

Admitting that use of drones by Pakistan in recent months to smuggle weapons and drugs into Punjab was a matter of serious concern for the state, the chief minister said his government had sought anti-drone devices from the Centre to tackle the problem.

'They send drones during night. Using a rope, these drones drop payload and fly off again. We recovered four of them in the recent past. These are Chinese-made drones, with payload capacity of 5 kg. They were carrying semi-automatic weapons, AK-47 rifle, heroin and Indian currency and hand grenades . Now, we have taken this matter up with the Centre and we are trying to get anti-drone devices to deal with them,' he said.

Unfortunately, Punjab, along with Delhi, had over the years emerged as a lucrative market for drugs, encouraging smugglers from other states and narco terrorists from Pakistan to push narcotics into the state, he said.

Singh said his government was working closely with other northern states, sharing regular information with them to combat the problem.

With the holding of meetings with DGPs of these states every month, there was significant progress in cracking down on the drug smugglers, he said, pointing out that the chief ministers had also agreed to meet every six months.

Referring to the Amritsar seizure, Singh when asked about the value of heroin seized said it was estimated to be around Rs 2,000 crore in the international market.

'One good thing is that the market prices are going very high, which shows that our success in enforcement is working. The moment there is shortage in the market, the prices shoot up, so this is a good thing that's happening,' he said.

He recalled that his government had given a list of drug dealers to Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier, which had led to some change for the 'positive', with the Canadian authorities taking action against the smugglers.

'I am told that some clampdown is coming on that score,' Singh said.

In response to a question, the chief minister emphasised that industrial development and employment generation were the key to weaning youth away from the drugs menace, which was affecting the whole world, including the advanced nations.

Replying to another question, he said he will look into the need to revise and add more chapters about drug abuse awareness in school curriculum.

To another question, he said that during the past over two years, 32 Pakistan-sponsored modules have been eliminated in the state.

154 terrorists or radicals have been arrested, 41 rifles including AK-47, 156 revolvers and 35 hand grenades seized, he said.

About 4 kg RDX and other explosives was recovered and five satellite phones seized, he added.

Singh also said the government has been going hard after gangsters.

Of the 'A' category gangsters, 10 have been arrested while five who refused to surrender were neutralised, 23 of category 'B' gangsters arrested and one neutralised, he said. PTI SUN VSD AQS AQS