Punjab “drug abuse” is a raging epidemic, especially among the young for many years now. In fact, every third person is hooked to drugs other than alcohol and tobacco in the state as per studies. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment in its report to the Parliament this August said as many as 6.97 lakh children — aged between 10-17 years — are hooked on drugs in Punjab. Of these, 18,100 children are consuming cocaine. Around 3.43 lakh children are taking opioid drugs that include heroin. The report further revealed that 72,000 children are taking ‘inhalants’ in Punjab.
Now in a mass awareness-based campaign against the drug abuse, the Punjab government has started ‘Hope Initiative’ to prevent youth from getting into drugs as also to wean away those who are already using them. Under this initiative, a three-pronged strategy of pray, pledge, and play is being used. And as part of the same, the culture of sports is being promoted in the state to channelise the unbounded energy of the youth in a positive manner.
Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on October 18 commenced the campaign from the holyHarmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar, where he participated in the “ardas” (prayer) ceremony for deaddiction, along with 35,000 school children. He said that the vision of ‘drug-free Punjab’ can’t be achieved without cooperation of people. So, the prayer at Golden Temple by children was the beginning of this public initiative. Along with this, a campaign was also started to connect the youth with sports.
Led by Chief Minister Mann, the students took a pledge to stay away from drugs and lead a healthy life. They also pledged to extend full support and cooperation to the government in its drive against drugs.