Dr. Kiran Bedi
Navjyoti India Foundation, the India Vision Foundation

VillagersI have been hearing and reading with great concern on the prevailing problem of drug trafficking and drug abuse in Punjab. As per ground reports it certainly has assumed very serious proportions to the extent that it has/is destroying a generation of youth of Punjab known for physical prowess and stamina.

India today needs all of its youth to contribute to nation building and its reconstruction as the case seems to be.

Let me share with you in my most humble way some practical ideas on how we in Delhi Police controlled and diminished the problem of drug sale and drug abuse in one of my posting in Delhi Police, when the problem was its peak.

The strategy is simple and comprehensive. We must begin with existing resources, with a  commitment to consider drug abuse affecting our youth as an epidemic which must get contained forthwith.

The plan requires an effective-holistic-coordinating team-leadership which is accountable and transparent in its functioning. I am confident that with this system in place Punjab situation can improve within the next two to three years from the day we begin.

Here is a multipronged plan to stem this epidemic of drugs. The focus be to reduce demand and cut off supplies, as one fuels the other.

To do this we must begin with the local politician on the ground. This includes the municipal councillor and the village heads. They are closest to the ground. They have to delink themselves from protecting any seller or supplier of drugs. They have to be the prime educators of prevention.           

To reduce drug abuse demand they have to be more responsible parents, teachers who ensure no students drop out of their schools and community leaders who are looked up to for counsel and guidance. At the same time they collectively mobilise resources for setting up holistic treatment centres on area need basis.

Local politicians equally need to work with the youth on prevention through creating skills training programs which generate employment in their respective areas. Encourage sports and various other creative activities. The local representatives must have a youth plan. This is the right route to follow.

While politicians must do their bit, they are not to interfere with law enforcement authorities to ensure effective interdiction both on supply and demand side. Police must enforce the law effectively, firmly and fairly as this is their primary responsibility.

Through systems of community policing they can be well assisted on information on drug traffickers and drug addicts. They need strong support of social and health care departments to open and run drug abuse treatment centres. These are an important source of information of the source of drugs. These must be acted upon by police as valuable leads for investigations.

Abusing drugs even for personal consumption is an offence, however under certain conditions. Such as those indulging in violent behaviour, which almost all do, must be jailed and treated inside the jail for reasons of restraint.

Prisons too have to drug free with treatment centres. Addicts must be released only conditionally, which is, to remain drug free with regular reporting to the treatment centres. Courts must be moved for forfeiture of sureties in cases of breach of bail conditions.

Nothing stops the police from being tough on any one in drug supply. Laws are there. They need to be enforced with integrity and firmness. They have to be non-sparing. Or else Punjab gets what it has today! And perhaps go worse--

A database must be kept of all traffickers and abusers, for law to be applied on them unsparingly. This will send a clear message to all that drug crime will not pay or profit.

In the nineties, we somewhat faced a similar sort of situation in Delhi. We did not let anyone worth his salt interfere in police work. We booked them if they made a bad recommendation. By this we neutralised them.

Police must work in close cooperation of Narcotics Control Bureau, the Border Security Forces, the Customs and other intelligence agencies. For this state police leadership or state bureaucracy is vital. It’s the success of coordination. Local administration like the district magistrates and superintendents of police are important hubs for local coalitions..

As a crime prevention measure we used to track drug addicts. We either arrested them in preventive sections of law, or under drug offences or sent them for treatment on need basis. Actually for the first time we in Delhi Police opened our own treatment centres to meet the demand. It worked. This was the rehabilitative and crime prevention role of community policing.

Along with this, police must work closely with bordering village communities if prevention is to be effective. Crime prevention cannot be without the support of community.

For this we created border groups and we worked with local bodies on a regular basis. We also opened toll free phone lines to inform us of sale or consumption. This sent the scare.

The Judiciary too has a vital role in expediting drug cases and punish stringently. Delayed trials make drug cases ‘rewarding’. As by then substantial moneys have been made. Drug money must not be seen to be ‘enriching’. Under the law suspected properties can be attached. Which is why regular updating in training is essential.

We kept track of all drug trials. And ensured we keep past criminals and addicts under local watch. If they slipped we went back to court to cancel their bails, which meant stiffer penalties.

Drug problems amongst youth is our own creation. It’s been weakening of governance and a break down of social systems. Public representatives must take the lead, with unsparing and impartial police, caring parents and strict teachers, responsible community participation, and expeditious judiciary. All must work in tandem—

We made this happen. And we succeeded. This plan is based on not mere recall, but duly documented. This is was a major reason recorded in my Ramon Magsaysay Award-Citation in 1994.  

Where a will there is a way--this is not a cliché.  It’s true!



Photo Credit: Woman selling Cannabis and Bhang in Guwahati, Assam, India.//Psubhashish 

Dr. Kiran Bedi Navjyoti India Foundation, the India Vision Foundation

Kiran Bedi joined the Indian Police Service in 1972 and became the first woman and highest ranking woman officer in the police force. She has since retired and quickly became one of India’s leading and most outspoken activists on policing and the rule of law. She retired from the IPS in December 2007 after holding the post of Director General at the Bureau of Police Research and Development. She is the founder of the Navjyoti India Foundation and the India Vision Foundation. Along with countless other awards, Bedi was awarded the prestigious Raman Magsaysay Award in 1994 for her public service. She has served as the Police Advisor to the United Nations Secretary General and has represented India in countless international forums on legal affairs, including the fourth World Justice Project World Justice Forum at the Hague. 

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