Ludhiana: The silence of the afternoon was broken by the sound of slogans in Ludhiana. Nothing unusual about campaigns in election season, but this one is different. There's no politician, no party flags. Just a group of women, their resolve and their rolling pins.
They call themselves the 'Belan Brigade', using the humble rolling pin as their mascot to convince people to stay away from the lure of drugs and money in exchange for their votes.
Anita Sharma, who leads the campaign, explains the idea behind the 'Belan Brigade' as she goes door to door, handing out pamphlets. "We have got a good response to the campaign with women wanting to join in. Today we are in a situation where 72 per cent of our population is hooked to some sort of drug abuse," she says.
Savita Kalra, another member adds, "If you go from village to village you can see how badly it has impacted people's lives. Whether it's the son or husband who is an addict, it is the woman who pays for it. It is so rampant that in some cases the mother herself gets the injections since she can't see her child suffer. "
All political parties have used the drug issue to make a political pitch, pointing fingers at one another. The state government blames the Centre for not preventing entry of drugs from the border, with BJPs candidate Narendra Modi accusing Pakistan of spreading what he called 'narco terror'. The Congress has accused state ministers of running the drug racket.
"It's a serious problem in all of Punjab. Alcohol, ganja, bhaang, so many youngsters have become dependent on these. What can be done," says a resident Shivrani.
Seema, a resident of Aggar Nagar, sums up the problem. "I was asked in Mumbai if my family also has a drug addict since that's all that anyone is talking of when it comes to Punjab. It's shameful that Punjab that was once known for the green revolution is today being spoken of only because of its drug problem."