No shock and awe over Udta Punjab for state’s students

The Central Board of Film Certification’s decision to clip Udta Punjab’s wings by imposing 13 cuts has ruffled the film producer’s feathers. Set against the backdrop of the rampant drug problem in Punjab, the film and the ensuing tussle between filmmakers and the Censor Board has snowballed into a huge row and the matter is now being heard in the court of law. But the students of different engineering colleges in the state appeared unfazed by all the brouhaha. “What’s the big deal about it? Drugs are an open secret. Cuts or banning the film will hardly affect the harsh reality on the ground,” said an engineering student from Patiala.

The crippling drug problem is common knowledge. Most students who come to Punjab to pursue their studies are in for a rude culture shock to see the ease with which drugs can be procured on the campus and everywhere else as well. But slowly they become oblivion to the issue for they are here to pursue their studies. “When I joined NIT, Jalandhar, the first thing I realised was that drugs are just a phone call away. Udta Punjab with or without the name of Punjab won’t affect anyone here in the state,” said a third-year engineering student, who hails from Madhya Pradesh. He also claimed that he has managed to stay away from drugs, but has to be doubly careful when his parents come visiting him in the hostel. “It might freak them out,” he added. The drugs are easily available in the vicinity of the campus.

The story of substance abuse goes a long way. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 14,564 people were booked in the state for drug abuse in 2014 figures NCRB report has also revealed that 51.6% youth in Punjab is addicted to drugs, the highest among states. It is 18 times more than the national average of 2.8%. 

A resident of Amritsar, who is pursuing his undergrad degree at one of the top engineering colleges in Punjab, has been smoking cannabis ever since he was 16 and he isn’t ashamed of his addiction. “As a matter of fact, I got hooked on drugs pretty late. My friends have been into it from the age of 12 or 13. Substance abuse is an open secret in Punjab. A movie will not change anything,” he said.

His father, who also spoke to PaGaLGuY, said he is aware of the fact that his son is on drugs but chose to overlook it. “It is rampant in the state. Every street has a peddler sitting out there to supply drugs to young children. There’s little that we can do? The government has to take stringent action to stop this menace,” he said. He seemed unperturbed and told that he hadn’t tried to send his son for rehab programmes. “As long as he comes home with good grades, I don’t care what he does.”

Others tend to hide the fact that their children are addicts fearing ostracism. Another student Diljeet said his cousin died of an overdose a year and a half ago. His family told everyone that their son had committed suicide. “After his death, I was enrolled in a rehab programme in Delhi. I am no longer into substance abuse. I don’t know what influence Udta Punjab will have, but this hype is only working as publicity for the film. How much social change the movie will bring is something that only time will tell; I wouldn’t like to comment on it.”

The ruling political class is also up in arms against the filmmakers for showing the state in a ‘bad light’ and believe that it will have an adverse impact on party’s poll prospects next year. But the youngsters seemed unaffected with all the hullabaloo over proposed cuts or banning the film altogether. “Even if it is banned in the state, we can watch it by downloading it from the Internet. I wonder what exactly are they trying to prove?” asked another student from the Thapar Institute of Technology, Punjab.