Faced with criticism from several quarters over alleged spate of deaths due to drug overdose in the state, Punjab cabinet today decided to recommend to the Centre death penalty for drug peddlers and smugglers.
The move was aimed to act as a deterrent to drug peddling which was “destroying” the lives of the youth Punjab.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the Cabinet, chaired by Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, which resolved to send a formal recommendation soon to the Union Government to this effect, according to an official spokesperson.
The Chief Minister had called for the meeting to discuss the issue, particularly in the context of the recent spate of deaths due to alleged drug overdose and adulterated drugs in the state.
Opposition parties including AAP and SAD have been criticising the 15-month old Captain Amarinder Singh led Congress government for allegedly failing to curb drug menace in the state.
There was a widespread outrage over the death of youths in several parts of Punjab because of drug overdose and a campaign against drugs called ‘Black week against Chitta’ was being observed by some activists in the state starting from July 1 in the wake of drug abuse.
The Cabinet also decided to constitute a special working group under the chairmanship of Additional Chief Secretary (Home) NS Kalsi to review and monitor, on a day-to-day basis, the action being taken to check and control drug abuse.
The special working group constituted to review and update the government strategy against drugs will have ACS (Health), DGP (Law & Order), DGP (Intelligence) and ADGP (STF) as members, the spokesperson said after the meeting.
A cabinet sub-committee has also been formed under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister, with the special working group mandated to report directly to it.
Health and Social Security Ministers have been appointed members of the sub-committee which will meet once a week to take stock of the situation and review the progress of the anti-drug campaign of the government, the spokesperson said.
During discussions, the Chief Minister ordered DGP Suresh Arora to intensify the police crackdown on the drug menace.
The Cabinet took stock of the cases of deaths resulting from drug overdose, which Special Task Force chief HS Sidhu said was a matter of concern.
H S Sidhu suggested registration of all such cases to enable the identification and mitigation of risk factors, such as supply of spurious drugs and mixing of drugs with other death-causing substances.
Local Government Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu expressed concern at the public perception that the government had not succeeded in eliminating the drug menace.
As a corrective measure, Advocate General Atul Nanda mooted the creation of a special cadre of at least 15 well-trained prosecutors to secure conviction of drug offenders in an effective manner.
Secretary School Education Krishan Kumar spoke about the steps taken to sensitize students from Class VI onwards about drugs and their ill-effects, with special chapters having been included in Physical Education text books.