Indian actors for the film Udta Punjab during the trailer launch of the Hindi language feature film in Mumbai April 17. (Photo by AFP)
A Catholic bishop in Punjab is concerned about the content of a controversial yet-to-be released film based on drug abuse in the state.
"Punjab does have a drug problem but portraying all the young people of the state as drug addicts is not true," said Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar, whose diocese covers the entire state.
The Hindi-language feature film Udta Punjab (Flying Punjab), scheduled for release June 17, ran into trouble after the Indian censor board suggested 13 cuts in the movie referring to specific places in the state involved in drug abuse. It also wanted the film producers to remove Punjab from the title of the film.
However, the makers of the film approached Bombay High Court who on June 13 cleared the movie with just one cut. But immediately after the film got cleared, the Punjab and Haryana High Court issued a show cause notice to the Indian government, censor board and the producers of the film asking them why the film should not be banned.
Bishop Mulakkal said the fear is that talking about the drug problem in the state would tarnish the image of its people, especially youth.
"They will be painted as drug addicts. Their career and marriage prospects will all be affected. This would be injustice to the youth of Punjab," he said.
According to a government report, Punjab ranks second in the list of Indian states with highest illegal drug consumption. Nagaland in eastern India tops the list.
According to a study conducted by Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar, Punjab, 70 percent of the youth in the state could be addicted to illicit drugs. The 2011 census said the state has over 5 million young people between 15-24 years.
People pass by a poster of the controversial film displayed in a cinema in New Delhi's Connaught Place June 14. (ucanews.com photo by Bijay Kumar Minj).
The most commonly used drugs are heroin and an assortment of synthetic drugs that can be bought without a prescription at local grocers and medical stores.
Bishop Mulakkal said that the Catholic Church in the state is trying "every possible way" to keep its youth away from drugs.
"Jalandhar Diocese has a strong youth ministry which spreads awareness about drugs especially in villages," he said.
The bishop said his diocese has also started employment schemes to keep the youth busy.
"We have started our own security company where Catholic youth are employed as security guards at different places and the diocese pays them a monthly remuneration," he said.
The diocese also employs youth in a construction company where "we provide services" such as plumbing, masonry, electric works and carpentry.
"The diocese additionally buys garments at a wholesale price and give it to the youth to sell and earn a living," the bishop said adding that they conduct monthly retreats to help youth stay strong in their faith and avoid drugs.