What Neha Shoree's Murder Tells Us About Punjab's Drug Problem
What Neha Shoree's Murder Tells Us About Punjab's Drug Problem

Dr. Neha Shoree, an official of the State Government of Punjab’s Food and Drug Administration wing, was shot dead on 29th March, in broad daylight, in her office in Kharar, near Mohali. Reportedly, the officer’s six-year-old niece was also present with her when she was shot point blank. The outrageous murderer was a vengeful pharmacy owner (and alleged, drug pedlar) who, on basis of illicit practises and non-conformance to requisite standards, had had his license annulled by Dr. Shoree in a raid, a decade ago.

The assailant, since identified as a 50-year-old Balwinder Singh from Morinda, was a chemist and druggist, whose shop had been legally annulled upon discovery of prohibited drugs, following an inspection raid in 2009, when Dr. Shoree was posted in Ropar, as a drug inspector. Mohali SSP Harcharan Singh Bhullar recalled, “During the raid, 35 types of tablets used by drug addicts were recovered but Balwinder could not produce any supporting documentation. That was when she cancelled his licence.”

Dr. Shoree who was designated as FDA’s Zonal Licensing Authority since 2016, was also going to testify in a court case against Balwinder Singh regarding the issue.

On Friday morning, armed with a recently licensed .32 bore pistol, and a concealed knife, the perpetrator motorbiked to Kharar, and entered the FDA office at 10:30 AM. He promptly shot Dr. Shoree at proximity twice, once into the temples and then into the chest, yelling “Happy Holi!” He subsequently attempted to flee but was cornered by the present throngs. Following initial brandishing of the handgun to deter and scare off the crowds, unable to escape, the killer shot himself in the chest and head. Both the killer and the victim were dead before they were brought to the hospital.

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Substance abuse is a crippling malady ubiquitously plaguing Punjab. The AIIMS Delhi conducted the first comprehensive study in 2015 to estimate the magnitude of drug addiction in Punjab – and the report concluded that there were more than 200,000 addicts in the state. Data from various government departments shows that the problem has aggravated in recent few years, attributed to a boom in indigenous, local sources rather than a cross-border smuggling supply continuum, that is often scapegoated and mongered to casually brush aside responsibility. According to the police records, 303kg of heroin was seized from the beginning of 2018 until 15 October. Only 191kg of heroin was seized from January to December 2017.

By data cited by the BBC, 60 deaths were linked to drug abuse in Punjab between January and June 2018, according to official estimates. In comparison, 30 died in drug-related incidents in all of 2017. Police officials say that the number is likely to increase when they release data for the second half of 2018.

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By various measures, Punjab consistently ranks in top 5 demographical statistic of drug addiction, for various substances, from liquor and cannbinoids to hard drugs as cocaine and heroin. According to various estimates, roughly one in three Punjabi schoolstudents were found to have some form of susbtance addiction.

Despite its extreme expensiveness, heroin remains commonplace among addicts notwithstanding the consumer’s social class and income. Several addicts take to peddling as a source of income; Yet others commit to theft. Most addicts initially exhaust their family resources, from possessions and savings to jewelry of wives and mothers and entire family homesteads, before resorting to petty crime; often voluntarily or involuntarily obliging their kith and kin, particularly their elderly parents and spouses to sustain not only them but their extravagant addiction, overworking in the process. This creates latent unemployment via dependants and burdens individual households, and the economy in general. It is well established that drug abuse and narcotic addiction also lead to manifold rise in critical domestic exploitation and abuse.

She is a martyr who sacrificed her life in the battle against the drug mafia.

The local police and security authority personnel are also prevalently complicit in the expansive nexus. Between 2014 and 2016, 68 Punjab police employees and other security forces were arrested due to their involvement in the drug trade.

Abolition of institutionalised syndicates, uprootment of the existant supply chains, excision of middlemen and humane but active treatment of victims with systematic rehabilitation are the possible roots to curb the hydralike menace. Intercepting cross-border couriers as well as their local liaisions, is also a desirable causative-specific cure.

Reportedly, a 36 year-old Dr. Shoree, who hailed from Panchkula, who was designated as FDA’s Zonal Licensing Authority since 2016, was also going to testify in a court case against Balwinder Singh regarding the issue.

Her 1971-war-veteran father Captain (Retd.) Kailash Kumar Shoree has stated that her daughter was martyred in the strife against the rampant drug mafia in Punjab. Mr. Shoree further added that her daughter was killed because she was performing her duty with utmost honesty and did not succumb to any pressure. According to him, “Neha was not comfortable in her job. Sometimes I felt that she was hiding something from us. And whenever I tried to inquire, she avoided my queries. She is a martyr who sacrificed her life in the battle against the drug mafia.”

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The Punjab police has set up a special investigation team to inquire into the Neha Shourie murder case, emphasising probing the arms acquisition and revising arms licensing to the accused, while rigorously and fastidiously investigating and reconsidering the circumstances leading to the horrendous incident.

Featured Image Source:PV News

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