The Censor Board’s decision last week to snip away all drug-related references to Punjab in the film Udta Punjab highlights the seriousness of the drug problem in that state. Senior leaders of the state’s ruling party can engage in whataboutery and call the drug menace a national problem, but data show that over the last decade Punjab has ranked consistently at the top or in the top 5 in many of the yardsticks used to measure drug abuse.

That Punjab’s drug menace is a serious problem is evident from the fact it is perhaps the only state in recent times to commission a drug abuse study. The Punjab Opioid Dependence Survey, which was conducted between February and April 2015, found that 230,000 people in the state were drug users.

That translates to 836 drug users per 100,000 people in the state. The All India number is 250 per 100,000 (for 2012), according to the ministry of social justice and empowerment.

Consider the number of crimes reported under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. There were on average 7,524 instances of crimes related to drugs in Punjab annually between 2005 and 2014. That’s second only to Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. Look at the rate of crime per 100,000 population — Punjab fares far worse than any other state.

In 2014 alone, the rate of reported NDPS crimes jumped to 50.5 per 100,000 population — four times that of second ranked Maharashtra with a rate of 12.4.

Punjab ranks among the top five states that reported the biggest drug seizures in 2014. The other four were Mizoram, Manipur, Assam and Uttar Pradesh.

Here’s another statistic that places Punjab on top: about 44.5% of total convicts under the NDPS Act in India at the end of 2014 were in Punjab, and the figure has consistently increased over the years. While this could mean that the state is fighting hard to combat this problem, it also highlights the extent of the drug abuse menace in that state.

Suicides due to drug abuse or addiction made up 2.8% of all suicides in India in 2014. In the case of Punjab, this stood at 4%. Drug-related suicide deaths in Punjab have decreased between 2011 and 2014, but it still figures among the top five states.

The Punjab Opioid Dependence Survey found that 89% of opioid dependents in Punjab were literate and educated, 83% were employed and they were mostly male. Chart 6 has the details of the survey.

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