Former Congress minister Vijay Singh Mankotia, who is Vice Chairman of State Tourism Development Board, has spoken it out blatantly. His remarks that ‘drugs tourism’ is picking up in Himachal Pradesh, with reference to McLeodganj and Kullu, along with the allegation of connivance by officials, cannot be taken lightly. Nevertheless, what Mankotia alleged cannot be without motive, going by his track record, wherein he has always practiced the politics of ‘convenience’. Critics say that this time, the good response drawn by anti-drug campaign (Addiction Free Youth) launched by his Congress rival in Shahpur assembly segment, Kewal Singh Pathania may have triggered his outburst.
Reportedly, Mankotia, of late, is feeling alienated in Shahpur, with Chief Minister, Virbhadra Singh clearly supporting Pathania, Vice Chairman of Forest Development Corporation, in the constituency. Whatever be the politics, drug trafficking and consumption is actually a serious concern in the mountain state and should be viewed above politics. The Chief Minister too has recognised it as a big problem lately and has told the officers to tighten the noose against drug peddlers as the youth is increasingly falling prey to the substance abuse.
Singh, in a meeting, few days ago, told the Police to keep strict vigil on the foreign nationals staying in interiors of the state, especially Kullu, in this regard. He has also acceded to the demand of ‘Addiction Free Youth’ to examine amendment in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act for stricter punishment to those involved in drug trading. The two important tourist towns of McLeodganj and Kullu (Manali) receive large number of foreign tourists throughout the year and are for long known for drug trafficking. Kullu valley is internationally infamous for the cultivation of narcotic drug yielding plant, cannabis, with an uphill village Malana turning out to be the hub of international drug racket.
Lots of foreigners are involved in drug trafficking in Kullu and other parts of Himachal, which produces narcotic drugs from cannabis and opium. And many of them are allured by the drug consumption in Kullu valley, some go missing in the deep jungles with no trace later. The cops close all such cases as ‘untraced’. The politicians in Himachal have always related the illegal cannabis and opium cultivation on large scale in the state with the economy of poor hill folks and have since sheltered those involved in the illicit trade.
Eyeing the vote bank, the politicians in the area have even been talking about regularizing the cannabis and opium cultivation. The Centre has rejected the idea, but the ambiguous stance of the local politicians encourages the people go ahead with it. The Police action of destroying cannabis as a part of special drive, off and on, is lackluster for reasons obvious. The illicit trade is going on and on in this conflict of interest. It is only recently that the Chief Minister has started speaking on the need of an alternative development plan for the poor folks involved in the illicit drug trade in HP. But nothing has started on the field in this regard in official terms so far. A former Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) officer, OP Sharma did think of an alternative development plan for at least Malana folks some years ago, the move was scuttled by ‘indifferent officials’ in the state.
More so, the small state faces a double threat. The illicit production of narcotic drugs and trading out of the state apart, lately, there is rising trend of substance abuse among the youth, including school children, which is disturbing. A network exists outside some schools, colleges and Universities, which allegedly facilitates availability of drugs to the youth. It all goes unnoticed by the authorities concerned.
The reasons for the youth taking to drugs could be psychological or the bad company, the easy access certainly makes them vulnerable to drug abuse. And it is here that the HP Police needs to step in aggressively. The exemplary work in this regard is being done in Kangra district, bordering Punjab, as Superintendent of Police there, Sanjiv Gandhi is pro-active. HP needs action against drug peddlers in all the districts so as to send a strong message.Probably, the politics on drugs won’t do any good. The issue requires a strong political will to go cracking against the nexus of drug-peddlers and a serious socio-economic intervention for comprehensive action.