A mob descended on a young man accused of peddling drugs in the village of Bhagi Wander in Punjab and chopped off his limbs on Thursday. Vinod Kumar, alias Monu Arora, later died of his injuries in a hospital in Talwandi Sabo.
Kumar, whose father is an undertrial for dealing in drugs, was also facing cases under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. He had only come out of jail a few days ago, according to the police. As he returned to home, from where he had been banished by the villagers, he was met with an angry crowd. In the ensuing row, he was attacked with sharp objects and grievously injured.
According to PTI, Kumar's family alleged he was kidnapped by another youth as he was going out to lodge a complaint about his stolen scooter. But others say, the locals were frustrated with the police for not taking adequate action against Kumar. Even after he was admitted to a hospital, they gathered outside to protest against the medical treatment that was being given to him.
Police told the Hindustan Times that an initial case of attempt to murder against unknown persons under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code was later converted to that of murder under Section 302. A footage, recorded on a mobile phone, by an eye-witness to the incident is also being examined by the authorities.
For years, Punjab has a reputation of being afflicted with a severe drug problem. As many as 860,000 men in the state, between the ages of 15-35, are on some form of drug. This means there's at least one addict in two-thirds of the households in the state, according to this BBC report.
While heroine is the most popular choice (53%), drugs like Alprax, no longer sold over the counter, are also widely used. Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh's government, which was recently elected to power, is making a concerted effort to fight the menace. Recently, it signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to escalate its drive to eradicate drugs from the state.
Not only is there a Special Task Force to monitor the sale and consumption of drugs in Punjab, but also an increase in rehabilitation centres to look after those affected. Although the number of people admitted to the rehab clinics were soaring in the first few months, attendance has fluctuated of late. Many are unable to continue their treatment once they are released and tend to relapse into their old ways.
During harvest, the youth are kept busy with agricultural work, but drift into addiction during lean season. Unemployment is held to be a major reason for the men to take to drugs. With easy access to Pakistan and Afghanistan, from where the supply of heroin flows in, the problem is harder to deal with in the state.
Apart from highlighting the frustration of the people, the latest attack also points to the lack of awareness of the clinical condition that is addiction. For a government that has promised to fight drugs, this horrific incident should be a call to step-up its efforts.
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