Row over film misses larger issue of Punjab’s drug problem

The censor board has asked the film makers of Udta Punjab to delete all references to the state, politics and elections from the film

jasleen

Jasleen Kaur | June 7, 2016


#Udta Punjab   #Shahid Kapoor   #drugs   #Punjab  
Udta Punjab
Udta Punjab

The Central Board of Films Certification (CBFC) finally relented, and decided on June 13 to let Udta Punjab move on. But by then enough damage was already done – to the board’s image. Its previous move to delete all references of Punjab, its politics and elections from the film once again caught the authorities on the wrong foot. The larger issue is not whether certain references should be deleted from the movie. The question is when CBFC will start treating the audience as adults and let them watch what they want. By deleting some scenes, the board or its political masters cannot hide the reality of Punjab.

The Shahid Kapoor-starrer film, scheduled to release on June 17, deals with the problem of drug abuse among youth in Punjab. Though there is no comprehensive study by the state government on the impact of drugs on youngsters, a number of surveys done by independent agencies highlight the plight. They show that at least half of Punjab’s population in the age group of 16-35 is addicted to drugs. A study by the state department of social security development of women and children shows that there is at least one drug addict in 67 percent of the households in Punjab. Another study by the narcotics bureau says that nearly 40 percent men in the state are addicted to drugs.

(READ: Punjab drug problem: The lost generation)

Drug abuse is really high in Punjab, the state once known for its prosperity. The Akali Dal-BJP government in the past has downplayed the problem. Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal recently claimed that only 0.06 percent of the population is addicted to drugs. The Shiromani Akali Dal has objected to the movie saying that it shows Punjab in “bad light”, probably because the assembly elections are round the corner and the party fears losing its hold after ruling for 10 years.
 
Punjab has been battling drug abuse for years now, irrespective of which party ruled the state. And if the government is genuinely making efforts to fight this problem, then it should promote a film that attempts to make the youth aware of the problem and its repercussions. 
 
Politics and drug problem
Instead of looking at the film as a move to malign Punjab’s image, the government must work on the problem on ground. By simply deleting a few scenes from the film the board (read the government) cannot hide the problem. The most important point is that the ground reality must be acknowledged first. If the government does not see it as a grave problem, it would not even work to find a solution. The state government has completely failed to do anything to counter the situation. In fact, the problem has only worsened with time.
 
Probably because the number of addicts is continuously rising and is so huge, dealing in drugs has become a lucrative business, allegedly even for some of the powerful names in the political corridors. In 2007, the intelligence wing of the Punjab police had compiled a list of drug barons of Punjab. It had names of powerful politicians from every party, and senior police officials at various levels were either directly or indirectly involved in drug smuggling of all sorts. While the list was handed over to the chief minister who expressed his annoyance, its content was never disclosed.
 
 
The government might fear the reaction of people in the forthcoming assembly elections in the state, where drug abuse has been picked up as a major issue by not only the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) but also the Congress. It is true that Punjab has had a severe problem of drug abuse and a couple of generations have been ruined but future generation can be saved if the government has the will.
 
The film may not cure the disease, but can definitely make people aware of the problem which the land of five rivers has been facing for over a decade now. It would not malign a particular community; rather it would put more pressure on the state government to tackle drug abuse.

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