Manjit, 28, died in June last year because of drug abuse. His father, a worker in the government’s power department, marched through the streets of his village carrying his son’s body, and then addressed a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“I told the prime minister he needed to step in to save Punjab’s youth from drugs. Our children are dying and nothing is being done.”
Seven months later, Mr. Singh is battling to highlight Punjab’s alarming drugs problem.
A recent government study suggests that more than 860,000 young men in the state, between the ages of 15-35, take some form of drugs.
Heroin is the most preferred, used by 53% of all addicts. But opium and synthetic drugs such as crystal methamphetamine are also common.
“My mission is to save Punjab’s youth,” Mr. Singh tells me as we sit on the roof of his modest two-room home. “I have carried my son’s body on my shoulders. It’s something I don’t want any other parent to experience.”
It is astonishing how widespread the problem is. One estimate says that more than two-thirds of Punjab’s households have at least one addict in the family.
Across the state, from villages in the lush green countryside to bustling towns and cities, young men huddle together in cemeteries, abandoned buildings, or plain fields, smoking, snorting or shooting up.
Tarn Taran, a district located along the border with Pakistan is one of the worst affected.
In the main town’s civil hospital, which also serves as a center to fight addiction, young men with glazed eyes hang around.
In the space of 20 minutes, I see a number of transactions unfold in full public view. They are approached by peddlers, money swiftly exchanges hands before a little packet is handed over.
The men then slink away behind a wall.
Beyond it is a derelict building, surrounded by rubbish and reeking of urine. Strewn all around are used syringes and broken bottles of prescription medicines.