Since enforcement of Model Code of Conduct (MCC), total seizures worth Rs 67.91 crore including Rs 3. 39 crore cash have been made across Punjab till January 11. The figure was disclosed in the official note circulated to media. In the context of the overwhelming domination especially of drugs as an election issue in Punjab this time, the figure may seem small but worth giving a serious thought.
It is only a week into the electioneering since announcement of the election date. Quite apparent, the movement of unauthorized cash, liquor and drugs was meant for use in the Assembly elections which necessitated action by law enforcement agencies leading to the seizures. Is it believable that abuse of money and use of drugs is done without political patronage?
Yet it was the political parties which raised the issue of stopping malpractice through use of money, drug/liquor and muscle power to influence the elections. Does it not sound like anything but sheer hypocrisy which was on display when their representatives demanded strong and forceful preventive action at meeting on January 12 at Chandigarh with full Election Commission, headed by the Chief Election Commissioner, Nasim Zaidi.
If the political parties are clean in their intentions and deeds, the question arises who then is behind such electoral malpractices. It may be argued that it is hardcore peddlers of drugs and white-collar criminals involved in abuse of money doing all this black business in election days. Who then is responsible for creating a market for them? There is definitely something more than what meets the eye.
According to the official note, out of the total value of Rs 67.91 crore, the seizure of 25 kg Heroin alone accounts for Rs 62.5 crore followed by 3777 kg Poppy Husk (Rs 1.51 crore), Opium 37 kg (Rs 37 lakh) and Liquor 14273 Ltr (Rs14.27 Lakh). And all this within a week since model code came into force on January 4. Interestingly, when the EC was meeting representatives of political parties in Chandigarh, over 2 lakh litres of country-made liquor meant to be distributed in elections, was seized along Sutlej banks in Ferozepur district in three separate cases. 9 persons were booked in this case.
This brings the number of persons booked in the entire state to 17 so far for their illegal involvement in this unholy trade. It is being alleged that the liquor seized in Ferozepur is done under patronage of contractors in this trade. One cannot but hope sincere investigation must be on to unearth their actual networks and “faceless” masters.
It may not be wrong to imagine the actual volume and people involved could be many times more which may or may not be seized depending on the quality of vigil by the enforcement agencies. But Election Commission is definitely ‘seized’ of the matter. Air Intelligence Units (AIU) have been made operational at Mohali, Bhatinda, Ludhiana and Amritsar to monitor the movement of cash through aerial routes. Employing such measure only goes to prove the extent of the rot.
The EC anticipates that besides cash flow, there would be huge movement of money through banking channels. For this fool-proof arrangements are being made to monitor these suspicious banking transactions. An inter-state and inter-agency coordinated strategy has been evolved to effectively curb drug menace to ensure free and fair elections. 74 inter-state Nakas have been set up out of which 58 are equipped with CCTV cameras. 22 sniffer dogs have also been deployed in different parts of the State.
No disclosure yet but all these arrangements must have been put in place at a huge cost which is an avoidable burden on the state exchequer. The illegal money is required to influence voters and fund pompous campaigning expenditures. Drugs are bought for distribution to the vulnerable voters. Who does this all? Elections can be free and fair in all respects only when political parties choose them to be so.
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