Families make addicts overstay at Punjab rehabilitation centres during elections

Fearing free distribution of drugs and liquor during elections, the families of drug addicts are prolonging their stay at various de-addiction, counselling and rehabilitation centres across the state.

Various addicts undergoing counselling and rehabilitation programmes at centres in Ludhiana, Gurdaspur, Bathinda, Ferozepur and Nakodar despite having completed their courses have extended their stay by 30-45 days. The addicts and their families feel that free distribution of intoxicants may weaken their resolve, thereby causing relapse.

Heads of counselling and rehabilitation centres revealed that the chances of “relapse” are 90% more in the addicts who complete their courses near elections. Reason: easy accessibility and free distribution of liquor and banned narcotic substances.

Gurjot Singh (left) and Sanjiv Kumar, the addicts undergoing the de-addiction, counselling and rehabilitation programme at growth Foundation, Ludhiana.

“It is after great difficulty that we have been able to see our son in a normal condition as he was addicted to heroin for seven years.

Taking him home during elections when political parties are distributing liquor and narcotic substances is too big a risk, so we will wait for another three weeks even though his de-addiction and rehabilitation programme is complete,” said the parents of a 24-year-old youth from Gurdaspur.

Gurjot Singh, 32, a resident of Rajguru Nagar, Ludhiana, started taking smack at age 13. Having initially procured it from Shahbad in Haryana, Gurjot gradually came in contact with the supply chain in Jalandhar and Ludhiana.

“For the past six years, I have been getting it from Ludhiana. Also, I switched over to heroin in 2006 which was available for Rs. 1,000 per gram then and is now priced at Rs. 2,500 per gram.

“Moreover, I want to spend maximum time at the rehabilitation centre before leaving for Canada to join my family but I do not plan to leave the centre before elections as I fear that coming in contact with those who supply drugs might coax me into using narcotics again,” said Gurjot, adding that he would cast his vote in favour of a candidate who promised to work for the cause of addicts.

Sanjiv Kumar, 31, from Chawni Mohalla of Ludhiana has been an alcoholic for six years and admitted to have started consuming liquor during elections as his brother-in-law had received “free supply”.

Punjab State Drug Counselling and Rehabilitation Centres Union president Amanjeet said, “There are 63 government recognised rehabilitation and counselling centres and each one has had an average increase of 20% addicts in the past two years. There are 35-40 addicts at every centre, with a waiting of more than a month.”

He said more and more youth were getting addicted to heroin and cocaine which is alarming as in order to buy these expensive substances, the youth takes to criminal activities like snatching and stealing.

Dharamveer, who runs a rehabilitation centre at Kurali near Rupnagar, referred to a case of a youths from a landlord family from Ferozepur who have requested him to let their son stay at the centre for an extra month fearing he might again fall prey to intoxicants.

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