NEW DELHI -- In an interview with The Indian Express, Vijay Sampla, the junior minister in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, has rubbished the AIIMS report which estimated that there are over eight lakh drug users in Punjab, and he claimed that the drug problem in the state is no worse than anywhere else in the country.
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, which commissioned the study, has now rejected the findings of the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre at AIIMS, and is planning to ask the Delhi-based medical institute to conduct another "proper nation-wide survey."
"Punjab ko badnam kiya jaa raha hai (Punjab is being maligned). You will never hear of a rave party in Punjab. It happens in Delhi, Mumbai, Goa and Himachal Pradesh. There is no issue in Punjab, it is the creation of the media,” Sampla told The Indian Express.
“If I am in politics, what is my role? My role is how to increase the honour of my country. If honour increases, the problem will get over. Our duty is nation first. If you malign the nation, strip yourself naked, others will call you naked,” he told the newspaper.
Earlier this year, AIIMS reported that Punjab consumes worth Rs.7,500 crores, every year, which includes worth Rs.6,500 crore. The AIIMS study said that out of the 2.77 crore people in Punjab, 2.3 lakh were dependent on opioid and 1.23 lakh were dependent on heroin.
Sampla also happens to be the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party's state unit in Punjab, which will soon be heading to the polls for the State Assembly election. BJP is the junior partner of the Shiromani Akali Dal in the ruling coalition, which is confronting a severe anti-incumbency sentiment.
Drugs in Punjab is a major issue in the upcoming state election, with the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress Party attacking the ruling coalition for failing to combat the problem. Rival political parties, which are in the race for Punjab, have accused the ruling coalition of trying to downplay the extent of drug addiction in the state.
Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, for instance, accused the Modi government of instructing the Censor Board to cut major chunks of Udta Punjab, a movie about the drug problem in the state.
Arguing that the sample size taken for the AIIMS study in Punjab was very small, Sampla told The Indian Express
"Of the total 2.75 crore population in the state, the report estimated that over 8 lakh are drug users. The numbers include those who consume alcohol even once a week. The actual addicts are only over 2 lakh which is less than one percent of the state’s population," Sampla said.
“We will appoint AIIMS as the nodal agency to conduct a proper nation-wide survey on drug abuse,” he told the newspaper.
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