Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Sunday supported Patiala MP Dharamvir Gandhi’s demand to legalise the cultivation and sale of opium in the state.
“Dharamvir Gandhi is doing a very good thing, I support him,” Sidhu told ANI. “My uncle used to take opium as a medicine and lived a long life.”
Sidhu said opium was better than “chitta” (heroin), which Shiromani Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia “introduced in the state, due to which parents have to see bodies of their children”, according to Hindustan Times. He was speaking on the sidelines of a function in Ludhiana on Sunday.
Punjab has a history with opium because of its proximity to Afghanistan’s poppy fields. The consumption of opium in small quantities was socially and culturally acceptable in the state. The connection emerged because of the state’s proximity to the poppy fields in Afghanistan.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh told ANI he was happy that the matter is being discussed again. “I hope that this is going to be looked at seriously and this matter is resolved for once and for all,’ the chief minister said.
In July, Gandhi, who was suspended from the Aam Aadmi Party and formed the Punjab Manch, submitted a memorandum to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on legalising poppy cultivation.
When asked if fuel prices needed to be brought under the purview of the Goods and Services Tax, Sidhu claimed the central government was not reducing prices of fuel even when the rates of crude oil are lower in the international market. “If brought under the GST, rates will come down to around Rs 45 a litre.”