With the Bollywood movie Udta Punjab’s frank and brutal depiction of physical abuse and forceful drug dependency of the female lead, it will serve the cause of counsellors and psychiatrists like Dr. Bhatia who are trying to pull back Punjab’s youth, especially women, from the abyss of drugs and crimes. For the patients at Hermitage, a new beginning awaits but not without the challenges of overcoming the hurdles of social acceptance and leading a drug free life.
With its unsentimental story and script, the film shows us what the horrifying statistics on drugs in Punjab truly mean.
Punjab’s first de-addiction centre built exclusively for women. Located in the Majitha-Verka Bypass in Amritsar, Hermitage has 25 beds for patients and makes it mandatory for one family member to stay during the entire course of the rehab programme – one to three months followed by regular follow-up visits in the out-patient department (OPD).
The rehab facility, inaugurated on May 22, 2016, is run by Dr Jagdeep Pal Bhatia, an Amritsar based psychiatrist who has been running the Bhatia Neuropsychiatric Hospital and De-Addiction Centre for the last two decades, treating both men and women.
“Less than a month of its opening, Hermitage now has six patients. We get about two or three women patients every day in the OPD, which gives you a fair idea about how widespread the problem is amongst women in the state. Women between 18-25 years from urban areas who go to study in colleges and universities are easily influenced and openly use hard drugs,” said Bhatia.
“A lot of women also fall prey to drugs to escape from domestic violence, acts of incest, physical and sexual abuse, and low self-esteem,” Bhatia continued.
Hermitage runs a programme called Women Integrated Treatment or WIT with an all-female 15 member staff, including security guards. “In the WIT programme, family members of women addicts take part as it is not only important for the addicts to be accepted by the family, but also informed family members should spread the word amongst others to help other addicts seek medical attention. The fee for treatment varies according to their addiction level – from nothing for poor families to Rs 15,000 to Rs 60,000 a month,” Bhatia added.
In Udta Punjab – or, let’s just say it, in Punjab – drugs are easy to procure and easier to snort, inhale and inject, producing a kick that lasts for a few hours. But the scars, both physical and psychological, remain far longer – holding in their sway lakhs of individuals who have forgotten to sleep, and forgotten to wake up.
Anasuya Basu tweets at @anabee588