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On 11 March 2024, Bhagat Singh’s native village Khatkar Kalan in Punjab’s Shaheed Bhagat Singh (SBS) Nagar district witnessed a tragic drug-related death. Navdeep Kumar, a young man in his early twenties, was found dead outside his home with a needle and syringe in his veins.

Kumar’s father, an alcoholic, had also succumbed to addiction, while his mother works in Dubai to support the family. Navdeep, unemployed and living with his grandmother, struggled with the same demons that claimed his father’s life. His elder sister is married and lives elsewhere.

Khatkar Kalan has historically been a focal point for the government’s anti-drug initiatives. In 2018, former Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh launched an anti-drug drive from this village. The current CM, Bhagwant Mann, took his oath of office here, vowing to combat the drug menace.

Over the past year, the SBS Nagar administration has initiated two major campaigns against drug addiction from Khatkar Kalan. On April 25, 2023, the district launched a campaign to make SBS Nagar drug-free. On November 17, 2023, the civil and police administrations held a special event at Khatkar Kalan under the Drug-Free India Campaign, aiming to educate young students about the dangers of drug addiction. During this event, SSP Dr. Akhil Chaudhary claimed that the police had taken stringent actions against drug smugglers, registering nearly 350 FIRs and incarcerating about 400 accused.

Additionally, on December 12, 2023, Miss India Navneet Kaur Dhillon visited Khatkar Kalan to spread awareness about drug addiction.

Despite these efforts, local residents express frustration over the lack of tangible progress. Surinder Pal Mahe, a local Panch, criticized the initiatives, saying, “All these efforts couldn’t stop a drug death in our village because such functions are nothing more than formalities. We have repeatedly requested a sports stadium to channel the youth’s energy into sports. Both State and Central Governments have been unresponsive to our appeals. They launch campaigns here but do nothing substantive on the ground.”

Villager Harminder Singh echoed these sentiments, stating, “Our village remains in the limelight due to Bhagat Singh. But this attention hasn’t brought any real benefits. Leaders visit, give speeches, and leave. Our village is in the grip of drug addiction, yet there has been no special treatment to address this issue. We are just another village in Punjab dealing with drug problems. We don’t even have a sports stadium, but drugs are easily accessible.”

The police have arrested three drug smugglers from the village in the last three months. However, they claimed they had no prior information about Navdeep Kumar’s struggle with addiction, highlighting the ongoing challenges in effectively tackling the drug crisis in Khatkar Kalan.

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