Facing widespread criticism and public outrage over the recent rise in drug overdoses, the Punjab government has recommended the death penalty for those convicted of smuggling illicit drugs.
Punjab’s ongoing drug epidemic has reached a crisis point with at least one life claimed a day over the last fortnight, prompting the state government to recommend the death penalty for convicted drug smugglers and peddlers.
The spike in deaths has been blamed on a new drug cocktail that mixes adulterated heroin with an unknown chemical known as "cut" in the local language. The usage of the deadly concoction in the northern Indian state has come in the wake of an unavailability of heroin.
According to a report published in The Tribune at least 23 people have died within minutes of using the fatal cocktail - most of them young men.
The issue caught media attention after distressing videos surfaced on social media showing the bodies of addicts, and others where grieving families pleaded for the administration to put a stop to the drug epidemic that is plaguing the state.
One such video that was widely shared shows a distraught mother crying over the lifeless body of her adult son, begging him to get up as he lies among rubbish in Kotkapura city.
In a separate incident in Ferozepur, a Deputy Superintendent of Punjab Police was suspended following allegations that he had forced a woman into drug addiction and had also allegedly raped her.
Irked by these relentless episodes, a group of activists launched a week-long social media campaign called 'Black week against drugs' to prompt the government to take action against the growing nexus of peddlers circulating such deadly drugs.
The campaign #marojavirodhkro (either die or protest) which started on Sunday, July 1, has gathered support within the Punjabi film industry and the community living outside India.
The problem has not gone unnoticed by the Punjab government.
The Captain Amarinder Singh-led administration which came to power in March 2017 pledged to eradicate drugs from the state within four weeks of assuming office.
Acting on his pre-poll promise, Mr Singh set up a Special Task Force to tackle the menace within days of coming to power. However, his efforts failed to yield a desired result.
Enraged by this, the people of Punjab took to streets on Sunday to show their solidarity with the ongoing campaign.
Forced to act, Mr Singh convened a meeting with his cabinet on Monday to review the recent incidents. It was decided that his government would approach the government of India and recommend the death penalty for drug smugglers and peddlers.
The provision of the death penalty is already available under the Narcotics and Psychotropic and Substances Act where the court has the provision to impose capital punishment on convicted serial drug offenders.
Punjab is arguably considered one of India's most progressive states, yet more than half of its rural households are home to at least one drug addict.
According to the Punjab Opioid Dependence Survey, which was conducted between February and April 2015, a staggering 230,000 people in the state are addicted to various forms of drugs, which is four times higher than the global average.