Rajesh Gill, a certified drug
addict, was trudging on a dirt path, somewhere in Punjab, on a cold December
night. He had gone down very deep into an addiction to heroin and was now lean,
short and wiry. After coming to a quiet spot, he looked over his shoulders for
police, then proceeded to roll up his sleeve, taking out a syringe, making a
fist to plump his shoulder, and then injecting himself with an Afghan Heroin
Compound, which he mixed with some water taken from a public fountain. Only the
moonlight guides his hand through the procedure. He then breaks the used and
bloody syringe in half and then throws it in the tall grass, where all the
other waste needles and syringes lie there. Later asked why, he replies,
lighting a cigarette, his eyes fluttering, “I feel so high when I shoot
up, my voice changes, my head spins. The high right now is so strong, it feels
like enough to last me 10 or 12 hours”. I was shocked when I saw this in a
news column in 2014, when it was reported, with the matter hushed up even then.
Yes! Welcome to the Heroin alley! India’s 1.2 billion population today finds
itself between the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan) and the
Golden Triangle (Myanmar, Laos and Thailand). Both regions produce vast amounts
of Heroin – Afghanistan itself accounts for nearly 75 percent of the world’s
supply. This is due to a combination of situations such as political
instability, widespread corruption, and the ideal mixture of climate, soil, and
terrain to cultivate opium poppy, the plant from which the drug is made. And
heroin users appear to be growing across the country day by day, which is quite
unreasonably alarming, with the drug getting readily available for everyone.
Origins and what really does it Look
Like and Its Aliases?
Heroin as such isn’t some drug
that can make someone brag so easily. It’s quite expensive and quite difficult
to produce. It was first manufactured in 1898 by the Bayer pharmaceutical
company in Germany and was marketed as a treatment for tuberculosis as well as
a remedy for morphine addiction. Yes!
Our very own smack was coming from Germany itself! The Kaiser’s very own
Kingdom of unified Prussia. During the 1850s, opium addiction was a very major
problem in the USA, while the UK had two wars fought on Opium against China in
the next two decades, with the production of Opium happening in India itself.
Basically, Opium was used by the British to bribe Chinese trade officials and
the bureaucracy of the country for tea. Now, the solution to the American
problem now was to provide addicts with a less potent and, very supposedly, a
“non-addictive” substitute—morphine. But Morphine was even worse.
Now, with Opium already a trouble, and the problem with morphine on the rise,
the solution came to be another so-called non-addictive substitute (and the
very hero of this story here)—heroin, which later on proved to be even better
in getting people addicted from the previous two. Now heroin, in its purest
form, heroin is fine white powder. But more often, it is found to be of rose
grey, brown or black in colour.
Heroin is highly addictive and the withdrawal symptoms are extremely painful.
The drug quickly breaks down the immune system, finally leaving one sickly,
extremely thin and bony and then, ultimately, dead. Street Names commonly used
are Big H, Brown Sugar, H, Hell Dust, Horse, Junk, Nose Drops, Skag, Smack, Thunder, etc.
Reports coming from surveys are
shocking and really alarming. According to the data of crime cases registered
under the NDPS Act, 46,923 cases registered are cases registered against drug-related
This isn’t it. According to the
Annual Report of 2015 of the Narcotics Control Bureau, The Heroin seizures in
India depicted a decreasing trend during the years of 2007 to 2011. However,
during the subsequent years of 2012 to 2013, there is increasing trend of the
seizures. In 2015, the slight increasing trend in the quantity of Heroin seized
in India has been noticed. Also, Punjab leads the states in the quantity of
heroin seized, followed by Maharashtra. Only about 1416kgs of heroin was seized
from 3931 cases. Significant seizures include the 9 seizures from Punjab, most
of them from the border areas itself, near Khemkaran, Ferozpur and Khasa. The
seizures also point out the lack of border infrastructure and adequate
organization to stop this cross-border menace. Anyone if seeing this will be
absolutely shocked to the brim. The issue really says all about the rise in
Narco-Terrorism as well as cross-border infiltrations as well.
The problem is especially bad in
Punjab, a relatively wealthy state of 28 million people in northwestern India.
As everyone has already seen the movie, does anyone know what it portrays is
actually true, even though it’s just a fictional account? Everyone might have
seen scenes at the start of the movie itself, young lads burning up a smack to
inhale, putting syringes in their arm, buying it across borders. The sad story
doesn’t end very well itself. This is the story of today’s Punjab, in the
shadows. Here Gill, 24, is among the estimated roughly 70 percent of young
Punjabi men who man suffer from a substance abuse problem, according to an
October 2012 study published by the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary
Studies, a think tank. Since then, the percentage has likely increased,
according to several experts interviewed for this story. And like many of
Gill’s peers, Afghan heroin, smuggled across the nearby border with Pakistan,
is the drug of choice. Not all that, the Doda or Phukki as it is known as traditionally
here, has been a problem since a very long time and affects a wider circle than
expected, except the rich kids and the rock stars. According to a survey by the
Punjab Opioid Dependency Survey (PODS), conducted by the National Drug
Dependence Treatment Centre, AIIMS claims that the largest concentration of
consumers comes from economically weaker sections with limited education and
Also, it’s not just Pakistan that
is the Source of all this, cottage Industries are budding up across UP and
Rajasthan as well supplying the drug. Also, drugs are coming straight from the
Golden Triangle, through Manipur, trafficked and sold by peddlers across the
Although the Punjab Government
released a shorter version of the PODS report in 2016, the actual report is
still confidential. The report has also criticized the government rehab
program, saying that
“There is a huge gap in the availability of treatment services for
opioid-dependent individuals – despite significant demand. This study indicates
that while as many as 80% of opioid-dependent individuals have tried to
give-up, only about 35% have received any help. Evidence-based, effective
treatment has been received by a minuscule proportion. “Admission to a
de-addiction centre” – which appears to be the most focused-upon
addiction-treatment strategy in the state” – is reported by just about 8%
individuals in last year. If the treatment strategies remain focused on only a
single modality of treatment (i.e. “Admission to a de-addiction centre”),
it will take about 10 years to provide a single episode of treatment to the
entire opioid-dependent population in the state.”
The new government has still not
yet been able enough to act on the issue since it has come to power. Instead of
banning a movie showing the truth, why don’t they focus on an issue that is
going to take a long drawn war?
Even after so much increase, it must be noted that the
people of Punjab haven’t lost the fight. Of course, the war against this menace
will be a long one, but anyhow it is us who have to win it, as soon as we can.
Its time, the people get to know of this menace soon, before it spreads across
the entire nation even more rapidly than it has already in many states.