Trouble is brewing between Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit and the AAP-led state government once again, with Purohit touring border areas and suggesting that if the state cannot deal with the severe drug menace, it should openly “ask the Centre for help.”
After Purohit’s accusing statements on Wednesday, such as “drugs are openly available in grocery stores,” Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann held a meeting with senior police officers on Friday, encouraging them to “keep up the good work” and not get “demoralised.”
“Worried over drug situation”
Purohit was on a two-day tour of the state’s border districts starting Wednesday. He went to Pathankot and Amritsar on the first day and toured Ferozepur and Fazilka on Thursday. He discussed the matter in detail with local media persons and concluded that the government had failed to check the flow of drugs, and jails have become safe havens for the mafia.
Purohit has said he was “worried” over the grave drug situation in the state. According to him, even policemen are struggling with drug addiction and youngsters even steal in their own houses to keep buying drugs before joining criminal gangs.
“Villagers tell me that drugs are easily available, just like any other item in a grocery store. The police may not know about it but the villagers do,” he said on Wednesday. “If the state government cannot deal with the situation, it should openly ask the Centre for help,” he added.
CM’s pep talk to cops
In his meeting with deputy commissioners, commissioners, and senior superintendents of police, Mann said the drug seizures showed that the police were in control and should treat the drug menace as “white terrorism.” He reminded everyone that the Punjab Police was known for eliminating militancy in the state.
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AAP state chief spokesperson Malvinder Singh Kang has argued that keeping a tab on the illegal drug trade along the border was not only the responsibility of the Punjab government but of the Centre as well, and that the Governor intervene at the level of the Centre.
Earlier, minister Aman Arora accused the governor of “making political speeches and running a parallel government.” He claimed that drugs come into Punjab through either the international border, or neighbouring Haryana, or the ports of Gujarat, “all of which are controlled by the BJP.”
“Not to blame but raise awareness”
To that, the octogenarian Purohit has asserted that his interventions were not political. “I am the executive head of the state and all orders are given out in my name,” he said on Thursday. He has even declared that his border tours are not meant to blame anyone but generate awareness.
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“Drug smuggling is happening in all the border districts of Punjab. It percolates into Punjab and even goes out of the state. I appreciate the work of the state administration and the BSF, as they are recovering a lot of drugs. But a lot is also not being recovered and that is how it finds its way into schools and villages. It is a matter of grave concern,” he said.
According to Purohit, “there is a need to strengthen the police stations. Drug addiction has spread among the police force as well.”
“Indirect war by Pakistan”
The governor also claimed the drug menace was an indirect war waged by Pakistan. “They cannot have a direct war with us. So, they have found a way of sending in drugs using drones. The only solution is to strengthen our border districts, and the people must be aware. We cannot leave a crippled, drug addicted legacy for the future,” he said.
Purohit had visited the border districts in April and September last year, too. “My earlier visit was to meet people and understand the situation. These border districts are the most important areas in Punjab because they are next to Pakistan. Punjab has a glorious past. This is the land of the gurus. But I’m worried,” he said on Wednesday.
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In Amritsar, Purohit said jails needed huge improvements. “Criminals are using jails to run their mafia. Mobile phones are easily available in jails,” he claimed.
The Governor has been repeatedly clashing with the AAP government in Punjab over issues ranging from the repatriation of IPS officer Kuldeep Chahal to the appointment of the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) vice-chancellor.
Opposition seizes opportunity
The BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has cashed in on the Governor’s statements by lashing out at the AAP and Mann. According to BJP leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa, drugs are now even available in schools. In a tweet, he has urged Mann to “take concrete steps, so that the youth do not fall prey to drugs.”
BJP’s Shehzad Poonawalla reminded people that drugs have claimed 190 lives in eight months in Punjab.
After SC slammed Punjab Govt for increasing drug problem now Governor of Punjab Purohit ji exposes AAP govt-how drugs have reached schools,children!
Instead of making Punjab Nasha mukt AAP made Delhi & Punjab Nasha Yukt & patronise the mafia – 190 drug deaths in 8 months!! https://t.co/QHKyxzK5Z1 pic.twitter.com/Bxh21fnaEF
— Shehzad Jai Hind (@Shehzad_Ind) February 2, 2023
SAD spokesperson Parambans Singh Bunty took a dig at the government, tweeting, “AAP promised doorstep delivery of ration but the Governor says it’s drugs that are available like ‘grocery items at general stores’ in Punjab. Does the CM have any moral right to continue in office after such an indictment by the constitutional head of the state?”
The BJP has been targeting the AAP government in Delhi as well. Party members staged a huge protest outside AAP headquarters in Delhi on Saturday, demanding Arvind Kejriwal’s resignation as chief minister over his name appearing in the Enforcement Directorate chargesheet in the liquor policy scam.
(With agency inputs)