Punjab’s anti-drug task force battles staff shortage

Amarinder took a vow to eradicate problem of drug addiction in 4 months, announced formation of STF at the first cabinet meeting.
Chandigarh : A brainchild of chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, the special task force (STF) constituted by the Congress government to fight the drug menace in Punjab has not been provided adequate staff even after nine months of its formation.
Amarinder, who had taken a pre-poll vow on the Gutka Sahib to eradicate the problem of drug addiction in four months, announced the formation of the STF in the first meeting of the state cabinet on March 18. An additional director general of police (ADGP), Harpreet Singh Sidhu, who was on central deputation in Naxal-hit Chhattisgarh, was brought to Punjab to head this force, and some officials with remarkable track record were put on the job too.
As per the government notification, the STF was given the mandate to break the supply of drugs in Punjab and even manage the rehabilitation programme.
However, it has managed to get only 486 police personnel against repeated demand for around 2,200. Of those deputed too, only 406 have been put in the field and the rest carry out the administrative work.
The force was to be provided personnel from those already on other duties or from the reserved battalions of Punjab Police.
“We have repeatedly asked for 2,200 personnel since April. We have 15 SP/DSP-level officials now and are short of 13 against earmarked posts at this level. We have three IGs, but also need three more AIGs besides the four working with the STF. Because, of the seven police ranges three do not have AIGs even when it was decided to have them,” said a senior STF official, requesting not to be named.
Senior officers also say that, in past seven months, they have written “more than 20 letters to different wings, including to the home department and the police headquarters” about the “urgent need” of more personnel to “fulfil the CM’s mandate against drugs”.
“The force we have right now was also provided very slowly. Still, we have managed to crack 627 cases and arrested more than 1,100 people either on our own information or in partnership with the district police. With the registration of a large number of cases now, our work has increased manifold,” said an officer. STF in-charge Sidhu refused to comment.
Gap between mandate and powers
*Notification constituting special task force of police by Punjab government said it would develop strategies, measures and methods to enforce law against drug trafficking, prevent drug abuse, rehabilitate the drug victims, and coordinate with other agencies and police units for it
*Further, the STF is to recommend disciplinary action and criminal action against officials of the police, health department and other wings involved in illegal activities related to drug trafficking that come to its notice.
*Notification even assigned task to collect technical and human intelligence, and maintain surveillance in accordance with existing provisions of law; plan and execute special operations against traffickers.
*But the STF, which is short of staff anyway, has not been provided powers for surveillance via equipment available with intelligence wing of police department, sources said. Officers, off the record, attributed this to “internal politics” at the police headquarters.


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