The chief of the Special Task Force (STF) formed to combat the drug menace in Punjab today put the role of certain mid-level cops under the scanner, saying the "illegal business of contrabands could not thrive without their connivance". Taking serious note of STF chief Harpreet Singh Sidhu's observations, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today ordered "shunting" of police officials suspected to be conniving with drug peddlers and smugglers to far-flung areas. The decision came at a meeting that reviewed the progress of the STF in curbing the drug problem in the state, an official spokesman said. The chief minister also asked the Chief Secretary to take up the matter with the DGP and issue orders of strict surveillance of officials posted with police stations in border districts, he said. It has been also directed that "errant" police personnel should be transferred without any delay, the spokesman said . This will help the state government to break the alleged "nexus" between BSF and police officials with drug smugglers, and check smuggling from across the border, he said. The chief minister lauded the efforts of the STF in controlling the drugs menace, but underlined the need for a more coordinated approach to tackle the problem. In a detailed presentation, Sidhu said, "The illegal business of drugs could not thrive without the connivance of certain mid-level police personnel serving in plum border postings for the past several years". The STF chief said immediate steps should be taken to "shift" these cops to far-flung areas, to break their nexus with drugs smugglers and traders. Sidhu also called for transfer of health department officials found conniving with drug smugglers and peddlers. Amarinder noted that any complacency on this count would regress the government's efforts in ending the drugs menace in the state. The chief minister has also constituted an inter- departmental committee for intensified and coordinated efforts against the menace, the spokesman said. It will comprise of the Principal Secretary Social Security, Principal Secretary Health and Family Welfare, Principal Secretary Education and Secretary Sports, he said. Before coming to power, the Congress had announced in its poll manifesto that drug problem would be ended within four weeks of the party forming government. Amarinder also urged the education department to launch sensitisation drives for students in schools, colleges and universities on the dangers of drugs abuse. He suggested use of animated films to showcase the harmful effects of drugs in order to keep youngsters away from it. Appreciating the Community Partnership Structure proposed by the STF to contain drug abuse, the chief minister said the Drug Abuse Prevention Officers (DAPOs) would play a proactive role in creating awareness among the youth to stay away from drugs, besides helping the government to rehabilitate victims. The STF chief said at the meeting that members of zila parishads and block samitis, sarpanches, panches, councillors, government teachers, patwaris, professors, assistant professors, panchayat secretaries and nambardars would act as DAPOs. He said that former sarpanches, panches, ex-servicemen, government servants, farmers, teachers, doctors should also be aggressively involved in creating awareness among the youth about the ill-effects of drugs and in countering wrong information being spread by those with vested interests. Sidhu also suggested a three-tier training programme for DAPOs. This would include a two-day state-level training for 200 master trainers, and district-wise training to trainer teams comprising police officers and representatives from NGOs.
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