Harnek Singh is a broken man. He sits with his back to the wall outside his house in village Bhaloor, his eyes blank. Ask him about his younger son Kuldeep Singh, alias Lala, and the dam breaks.

Sarkaar nu taan aapan eh kehne haan ki jaa taan hor vadha do, jama hi saaf kara do patta.. koi rave hi na.. jaa control kar lo (We urge the government…control the situation or increase the drug supply to such an extent that no youth is left alive),” says Harnek, who is in his late seventies.

He recently cremated Lala. The 41 year old, a kabaddi player and locally famous as Lala Bhaloor, died on June 7. He is one of the two men from Bhaloor, in Baghapurana Assembly segment, who died of alleged drug-related reasons in the past six days. The other victim was Mani. In his early twenties, he died in a hotel at Amritsar on June 6.

In August last year, Jora Singh’s family from this village lost their third son Manpreet Singh (37) allegedly to drugs. Manpreet had sold everything of any value that the family had—tractor, bed, bike, wheat bags, utensils—to procure chitta.

Harnek doesn’t mince words on how his young son died. “Kaaran nasha hor ki (Drugs is the reason behind his death). If someone tries to stop them, these youngsters who are addicted to drugs, pick a fight. None from the administration listens. Home after home in our village is getting emptied out due to this menace”.

Festive offer

Lala had returned from Singapore some years back, where his elder brother works. He was married but his wife had left him due to his drug problem, says the father. “He got into bad company and started consuming chitta,” says Harnek, who doesn’t own any land. Harnek, whose wife has died and two other sons stay away, said that with Lala’s passing, his only support in life is gone. “Now I don’t have anyone to give me a glass of water,” he says.

A family relative said: “Lala had been consuming chitta for some years now. He collapsed at his home on June 7. Harnek doesn’t own any land but his elder son who lives abroad sends financial help”.

Village sarpanch Pala Singh said that another youth from the village, Mani, in his twenties, also died after allegedly consuming drugs in a hotel in Amritsar.

“His (Mani’s) family is not speaking out due to social stigma but he too was an addict. Such is the condition of our village that in this year alone, at least six deaths have happened due to drugs. Even the children in the village know that drugs are openly available here,” says the sarpanch.

Mani’s father Kala Singh refused to comment on his son’s death. However, Inspector Sukhbir Singh, SHO, Amritsar Division-B police station, said: “The body of Mani was recovered from a hotel. His family claimed he suffered a heart attack but autopsy report is awaited to ascertain the cause of death.”

In August last year, Jora Singh lost his younger son Manpreet to drugs. Seven years ago, Manpreet’s elder brother Gurpreet Singh too had died of drugs. In 2022, Jagjit Singh, a nephew of Jora Singh also died of drugs. Moga Police had arrested two suppliers for selling drugs to Manpreet.

After a spate of deaths and losing its men to the drugs, the villagers in Bhaloor have several questions for the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Ahead of 2022 Assembly elections, AAP had promised to make the state drug-free within three months. Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has now promised to finish drugs in Punjab by August 15.

Pala Singh, who was earlier associated with SAD, says: “Twice or thrice we tried to stop the sale of drugs in the village but the peddlers got after the lives of those who spoke up. Our families fear for our lives. Many times senior police officials, including the SSP, have counseled the villagers but nothing has changed. Even if FIRs are registered, the suppliers are back in few days. Everyone had voted for AAP…but where is AAP now?”

Sukhmandar Singh, block samiti member, Baghapurana, says, “The homes in our village are getting empty and old parents are left behind to grieve. It has been eight years that SAD, which was blamed for spreading drugs in Punjab, is not in power. So how come chitta is still being sold?”

DSP (Baghapurana) Dalbir Singh, who visited the village Monday, said: “We spoke to the family of Lala Singh who admitted that he was consuming drugs. They tried to wean him away but he never listened to them. However, no one informed us about his death earlier and cremated the body without getting autopsy done. The family of the other deceased is not ready to speak. How can we take action against suppliers until we do not have any complaints? The panchayat has been asked to cooperate and inform the police about addicts as well as suppliers. We will help addicts in getting treatment.”

Meanwhile, AAP’s Baghapurana MLA Amritpal Singh Sukhanand said: “The men who have died in Bhaloor village were addicts but they haven’t died due to drugs. Still, I will get the matter investigated properly.”