Thursday, January 3, 2013

An Assault on the Senses: Days 30 - 31

Day 30

It’s not a secret that drug abuse and addiction has become an overwhelming problem in Punjab, India. In 2010, Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar suggested that as much as 70% of young Punjabi men were addicted to drugs or alcohol.

This dramatic increase stems from the sale of drugs; Punjab has become a hub for distribution of drugs for supply to other countries. Most of these substances are produced in Afghanistan and then routed through Pakistan to Punjab. Therefore, the consumption and sale of drugs in Punjab is on the rise.

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) Act of 1985 contains section 7A, which mandates the central government to create a national fund for control of drug abuse, but this has not really been implemented. Unfortunately, it is difficult to mend the problem when politicians and police are involved in drug sales, taking profits from sellers. According to the Washington Post, more than 100 pounds of heroin were confiscated from parties who intended to distribute it to voters in Punjab before the state elections last year. Furthermore, the former police narcotics chief from Chandigarh was arrested and charged with the selling drugs in 2009. 

One of the most interesting discoveries I made was while reading case files at the firm – that drug smuggling in jails is also a widespread problem. Statistics show that out of 18,000 prisoners in the jails of Punjab, at least 30 percent of them are in illegal possession of drugs. In Patiala Central Jail alone, 1100 out of 1910 inmates are reported to be undergoing trials or serving terms under the NDPS Act. 

Narcotic traders have set themselves up in jails in Punjab and even though they have been able to get bail, they aren’t posting bail because the trade of narcotics is more profitable inside the jails. Also, they find it safer to sell drugs in the jail since the jail staff is easily swayed. And so, alcohol, opium, and drugs like cocaine and heroin are easily available in the jails. Previously, prisoners were addicted to injections and capsules, which were available in the jail pharmacies. (Records show a high consumption of sedatives in pharmacies in the jails.) These are now considered “poor prisoners’ drugs,” whereas prisoners with more money are able to obtain more “sophisticated” drugs and alcohol. The drugs are supplied inside the jails through food items or raw vegetables and fruits.

What’s worse is that the jail staff is often involved in the smuggling of drugs and sale to the prisoners. Superintendents, guards, doctors, and pharmacists working in jails have been accused of partaking in these illegal activities. When prisoners try to make complaints against the jail staff that is involved in the drug sales and smuggling, they are put in solitary confinement in unsanitary conditions, beaten, or tortured.

It’s become necessary for the government of Punjab to adopt a long-term strategy to break the cycle of the abuse of drugs. Fortunately, de-addiction centers have been opened with pilot projects started in Kapurthala and Bhatinda Jails, and hopefully more will continue to open with the success of these programs. There is a great need for transparency and accountability in the goings-on of the Punjab jails so that the sale and supply of drugs in these jails can be cut short and addicts can have access to rehabilitation during their stay in jail. This way, they are less likely to fall victim to recidivism. To accomplish this, the police, prisons, the Health Department, and NGOs need to work together to get Punjab on the road to recovery.

Day 31

My aunt and I watched a Bollywood movie on TV today called Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (which basically means “You only have one life to live.”)
It was a pretty good movie (considering I’m not generally a fan of Bollywood movies) about three best friends who go on a bachelor trip to Spain and have fun doing adventurous things like deep sea diving, skydiving, and a bull run.

As you may know, I’m obsessed with poetry, so my favorite parts of the movie were Hindi poems that were recited by Farhan Akhtar, who plays one of the three friends. They were absolutely beautiful, and I thought I’d repost them underneath. To get the real feel of them, you should really hear them being read in the movie, but here they are anyway; hope you enjoy them as much as I did :)

Poem 1
Ik baat honton tak hai jo aayi nahin
Bas ankhon say hai jhaankti
Tumse kabhi, mujhse kabhi
Kuch lafz hain woh maangti
Jinko pehanke honton tak aa jaaye woh
Aawaaz ki baahon mein baahein daalke ithlaye woh
Lekin jo yeh ik baat hai
Ahsas hi ahsas hai
Khushboo si hai jaise hawa mein tairti
Khushboo jo be-aawaaz hai
Jiska pata tumko bhi hai
Jiski khabar mujhko bhi hai
Duniya se bhi chupta nahin
Yeh jaane kaisa raaz hai

Poem 2
Jab jab dard ka baadal chaya
Jab ghum ka saya lehraya
Jab aansoo palkon tak aya
Jab yeh tanha dil ghabraya
Humne dil ko yeh samjhaya
Dil aakhir tu kyun rota hai
Duniya mein yunhi hota hai
Yeh jo gehre sannate hain
Waqt ne sabko hi baante hain
Thoda ghum hai sabka qissa
Thodi dhoop hai sabka hissa
Aankh teri bekaar hi nam hai
Har pal ek naya mausam hai
Kyun tu aise pal khota hai
Dil aakhir tu kyun rota hai

Poem 3
Pighle neelam sa behta ye sama,
neeli neeli si khamoshiyan,
na kahin hai zameen na kahin aasmaan,
sarsaraati hui tehniyaan pattiyaan,
keh raheen hai bas ek tum ho yahan,
bas main hoon,
meri saansein hain aur meri dhadkanein,
aisi gehraiyaan, aisi tanhaiyaan,
aur main… sirf main.
Apne hone par mujhko yakeen aa gaya.

Poem 4
Dilon me tum apni betabiyan leke chal rahe ho,to zinda ho tum
Nazar me khwaabon ki bijliyan leke chal rahe ho,to zinda ho tum
Hwa ke jhokon ke jaise aazad rehno sekho
Tum ek dariya ke jaise lehron mein behna sekho
Hr ek lamhe se tum milo khole apni baahein
Hr ek pal ek nya sama dekhe nigahein
Jo apni ankhon mein hairanian leke chal rahe ho,to zinda ho tum
Dilon mein tum apni betabian leke chal rahe ho,to zinda ho tum

– Javed Akhtar (Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara)

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