This Article is From Jul 15, 2014

Punjab Police's Internal War on Drugs

Senior cops in the Punjab police admit they are fighting a war within. A secret inter-departmental letter was circulated a month ago, warning those addicted that they should either seek help or face the axe.

Amritsar: The tall, wiry man could be any other addict at the rehabilitation centre in Amritsar. But this a policeman, one who was part of an anti-drug unit, till he fell prey to drugs three years ago.

The 43-year-old sub-inspector, who has been at the centre for a month, spoke to NDTV on condition of anonymity. "I have been in the Punjab Police since 1992. I came to Amritsar to join this special intelligence unit in 2011. Whenever I seized drugs I gave some to my source, in exchange for information. That's how I started. I would see him use it and then I began using drugs too. Once a month initially, then fortnightly, then it came down to every day," he said.

The cop claims that he and several others in his unit routinely removed a portion of the drugs seized and alleges that his seniors knew about it. "If we seized 1 kg of heroin, we would take out 5 or 10 gram and then put the rest in a sealed bag. Because of the weight of the bag, it would get adjusted."

Since the end of May this year, the Punjab Police has cracked down on the drug mafia operating in a state plagued by drug abuse. In the border areas, which are worst-affected, about 1,800 peddlers and more than 60 alleged smugglers have been arrested. 63 kg of heroin worth almost Rs 315 crores has been seized.

Despite the successes, senior cops admit that there is a battle within to fight. A secret inter-departmental letter circulated a month ago warned drug addicts in the force that they must either seek help or face the axe. A close watch is now kept on rooms at police stations where drugs seized in raids are stored.

Ishwar Chandra Sharma, IG Border range says, "We have formed a special committee to de-addict these cops. They are no more than 2 to 3 per cent of the force and are mostly people from the lower ranks. We are counselling them and we believe since they are part of our force we have emotional and professional control over them."

But Shashi Kant, a former Additional DGP of Prisons alleges that the number is much higher and includes some senior officers. "50 per cent of the Punjab Police are drug addicts. I am saying this with responsibility," he says.