In 2014, Punjab police installed a board at the entrance to this village, declaring it ‘infamous for drugs’ (Eh pind nasheyaan layi badnaam hai) with a warning against peddlers. Villagers protested against the defamation, the board was removed, but the tag has stuck. Daulewala village in Dharamkot subdivision of Moga is still known as a “drug village” (Nasheyaan layi badnaam pind).
As Punjab prepares for a three-cornered election, the widespread availability of drugs, addiction, its costs on society and economy, and the SAD-BJP government’s failure to tackle the problem are the ammunition that the Opposition Congress and debutant AAP will deploy against the 10-year Badalan di sarkar, a well used moniker for the government. SAD’s top leadership has regularly denied that the problem is as serious as it is made out to be, and says there is a campaign on to defame the youth of the state.
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Daulewala provides a glimpse of how the election itself is more complex than the simple black-and-white, all-or-nothing formulations that politicians on campaign offer about the drug problem in Punjab. Despite its obvious drug problem — used syringes are a common sight in this village of 1,200 people — the Akalis have a loyal following. The village has been voting for SAD since 1999 (out of 1,200 votes, 800 for SAD in 2012). The last two panchayat polls returned Akali sarpanchs.
Unemployment is a huge worry and the Congress promise of “a job to one youth in every family” is seen as attractive. The Aam Admi Party, despite its promise to end the drug menace, jail the big fish and provide jobs, is an “outsider”.
The Indian Express saw used syringes lying in front of homes, shops, in garbage heaps and on streets leading to interiors. Police registered 45 FIRs for drugs here in 2014, 34 in 2015 and 10 in 2016 (see chart). Villagers say it is never the “big fish” who are booked in FIRs, only “mall peddlers” and “addicts”.
Last year, Amar Singh, 23, a graduate and kabaddi player, had signed up for the Punjab police’s recruitment drive and gone for the entrance trials. Some 10 days after the trials, on August 8, his body was found outside the home of a known drug dealer in the village.
“I don’t know what happened to my son. The people in front of whose home he was found dead are known drug addicts,” said Krishan Kaur, 45, alleging her son was “forcibly given some drugs”. “The police ignored our pleas. Those who supply drugs to village youths are never arrested.”
The family said they are now supporting Captain Amarinder Singh. “He has promised a job to every household,” said Krishan Kaur.
Kartar Singh, 75, has been a staunch Akali. His son Ranjit Singh was elected sarpanch in 2008 from Akali Dal and used to lead a campaign against drugs. Then in August 2015, he was himself booked for heroin smuggling, taking the village by surprise.
“We have seen now what it actually means to stand for truth,” said Ranjit’s wife Rajwinder Kaur. She said her husband was first booked in an accident case, the NDPS case coming two weeks later. “My husband was in Akali Dal and refused to allow drug peddling. On September 12, 2012, he wrote to the DIG alleging a threat from police.” Nirmal Singh, the current sarpanch, who is also an Akali leader, is in Faridkot jail and booked in five NDPS cases for smuggling poppy husk. Outside his palatial bungalow, his brother Rasaal Singh said, “The real smugglers are never arrested. My brother was framed.”
Villagers said that ahead of every election, drug “supply” to their village increases. “Selling or buying a syringe without a doctor’s prescription is banned. How are they available here so easily? Supply has increased manifold in the last three months and it always does around poll time,” said Amandeep, 60.
“Even police are not daring stop them. Since almost three months ago, there is no patrolling at night. The drug market flourishes after sunset,” says Joginder, an unemployed villager.
“Not everyone here takes drugs,” said Satnam Singh, a local kabaddi player and Akali supporter. “The village has been defamed at the behest of opposition parties.” Tota Singh, sitting SAD MLA from Dharamkot, is recontesting. Against him are the Congress’s Sukhjeet Singh Kaka Lohgarh, and affluent dairy farmer Daljeet Singh Gill on an AAP ticket.
“Our village guru, Baba Tulsi Das Jhuggi Wale has clearly said that we have to vote for the Akalis,” said Amarjit Singh, a daily wager. The baba lives in the village gurdwara but was not in when The Indian Express visited. Asked about AAP’s promise of jobs, Amarjit Singh said: “It’s not the same, they are outsiders”.
In April 2016, Punjab DGP Suresh Arora visited the village to “motivate” youths to shun drugs. He promised that youths of Daulewala will be given preference in constable recruitment.
The government also promised that the village government school (till class 8) would be upgraded till class 12 but the promise is yet to be fulfilled. “Twelve youths from Daulewala applied for a constable’s job and cleared physical tests. But contrary to the DGP’s promise, none of them was given preference for finals. Every household has an unemployed youth who falls into the trap of making easy money selling drugs,” said Gurjinder, 28, a qualified nurse but unemployed.