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Vijender Singh's anti-drug message leaves NCB officials redfaced

When March gives way to April this year, arguably officials of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) will have to go through an agonising moment of embarrassment as they turn over to the next page on the table calendar in office: Olympian boxer Vijender Singh, who is now under the cloud of a doping scandal, graces the page for April, telling them, ironically, that taking drugs is bad for society and the nation.

Vijender Singh
In the calendar, an image of Vijender Singh from the Olympics is used with the advice ‘Just say No’

In the first such in-house calendar released by the NCB, Vijender’s photograph features in April, with a message that ‘Drug abuse is a major challenge to the well-being of our society and nation. Just say ‘No’.’ Vijender, who has sported a squeaky clean image till date, was plunged headlong into controversy earlier this month. It all started when the Punjab police recovered 26 kg of heroin, worth Rs 1.3 crore in the international market, from Anoop Singh Kahlon, a Canada-based NRI drug dealer operating in Punjab.

Vijender Singh
In a calendar released by the NCB, pugilist Vijender Singh’s photograph features in April, with a message ‘Drug abuse is a major challenge to the well-being of our society and nation. Just say ‘No’.’ File pic

Vijender’s fellow boxer Ram Singh, who was picked up by the police for questioning, dragged Vijender into the eye of the storm with the startling disclosure that the two had taken heroin from Kahlon. “In the backdrop of the drug controversy, this calendar has become the talk of central government agencies, and brought embarrassment to the government.

Copies of the calendar have been circulated in-house as well as to other government offices such as the police, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, the Enforcement Directorate, the Income Tax and Customs departments, with whom the NCB officials have frequent interaction,” said a senior NCB officer on condition of anonymity.

Apart from Singh, several other national sporting icons grace the pages of the calendar, each of them delivering a message against drugs — ace shuttler Saina Nehwal, current world chess champion Viswanathan Anand, Olympics bronze-medallist pugilist M C Mary Kom, cricketer Suresh Raina, wrestler Sushil Kumar, air rifle shooter Gagan Narang, wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, top archer Deepika Kumari, Olympic medallist Vijay Kumar, eight-time snooker world champion Pankaj Advani, and ace hockey player Sandeep Singh.

“We have the network to scrutinise each and every high profile person and national icons. This fiasco should be a lesson for the department,” said an NCB officer from Mumbai, pointing out that there is no mechanism in place for the selection of public figures based on their contributions or background. Deputy Director General (Administration) Ashok Yadav, who sits at the Delhi NCB headquarters, said, “We are selective while choosing the photographs. These are public figures and people like to see their faces.”

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