In my previous blog post, I wrote about the drug culture in Punjab and in that my emphasis was more on the rural Punjab as it is one of the worst hit places, clouded densely by the menace of drugs. The village is a foundation of any society and as a result a community gets infected easily. This doesn’t mean cities are not under this glut too, but I want to highlight certain factors adding to the menace of drugs in rural Punjab. For this first I want to share what is a village and why it is important in a state.

A village is basically a self sustaining unit and a cluster of human settlement with a population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand. According to the census figures of 2001, in India 74% of the population live in villages and in Punjab there are over 12,000 villages. A village is the smallest administrative unit of any state or nation. As Gandhi rightly said, the village is the soul of any state or nation and the spirit of human existence resides in the villages. The pressures of urbanisation have engulfed the villages to an extent and have increased pressure on their substance.

Historically, villages tended to be forms of community that practised subsistence agriculture and some other allied work. The onslaught of industrialisation and urbanisation of South Asia has led to a massive migration of skilled hands from villages as well as the qualified and literate people too. This has created a huge vacuum and more so, the concentration of amenities and other comforts of modernisation too have left aside the villages.

In any revolution or change of the satus quo, village people have been at the forefront. In our Punjab, be it in the face of the British Raj or the hegemony of the Mughals and the tyrannies of the present day rulers, village people have faced the most difficulties. It is widely known in recent times that people who have stood against the tide have come from village backgrounds. Even today if I look around the uprisings in the Arab world, it is mostly the rural people who are helping to bring about change.

The village as a small interconnected unit is no more in Punjab and has been left behind. There are far less basic amenities compared to urban dwellings and in the cities. This has created undue pressure in terms of education which is far away from what is being provided in cities. Healthcare, the most basic of social facilities, is non-existent in villages. There are no recreational facilities provided by the state, no parks or children’s play areas. These very children visit cities and look at these facilities with a surprise and hunger, wondering why they don’t have similar provision. Combined, these omissions create a lifeless existence in villages and help create a vacuum which ultimately pushes people towards other, false forms of recreation. That is drugs and chemical intoxicants.

People can’t work all day long and then have no place to hang out. The existence of so many gurdware in villages have failed to generate a qualitative experience in the evenings or even a place for a person to gather his or herself after a long day of work. Women are limited all day long to their daily chores and have no respectable place to relax or refresh their minds.

Today’s Punjab can be best illustrated by a poets phrase:

Na panj reha,
na aab reha,
na ethe bande nu apna yaad reha,
tere na mere Vich,
mere na tere vich,
na pyaar na satkar,
teh na he ohna itbar reha,
na oh tera Punjab,
teh na eh Tera Punjab reha.

The lack of basic implements have taken the soul away from village life and most difficult is that the evenings for any youth of Punjab in a rural area are totally listless, creating a deep sense of loneliness. This solitary confinement forces some people to take shelter in false images and for this they take recourse to drugs. Most of the villages are flooded with chemists and liqueur vendors or daru shops.

Moreover, the politicians make use of this captive population to make false promises in every gathering where they are given a chance to speak. Promises of governing that will bring about a change in Punjab villages and bring basic amenities. These promise remain unfulfilled each and every time and villagers are left to find their own ways to create life where there is none. Contrast this to the lot of the urban population.

The famous saying in Alex Haley’s book ‘Roots’ is that one should never leave the roots unnourished and uncared as it will surely lead to our own demise and decay. No doubt certain individuals and groups have taken it upon themselves to create life in villages even though they have moved to western comforts, but the main task is of the governing people who take away votes on the false pretext of creating basic amenities in village life and once elected forget about it. Even people of eminence with village backgrounds prefer the comforts of city life and prefer to spend the evenings of their lifetimes in urban dwellings rather than to enrich their roots.