Haryana clinic has been working overtime as ambulances bring young men, from a police recruitment camp

Haryana, June 30:  A government polyclinic in Haryana has been working overtime for almost a fortnight now, as ambulances brings young men from a police camp, one after the other, on overdose of drugs.

They are being brought in from a police recruitment camp, a ten-minute drive from the healthcare centre.

Many of the men display alarming symptoms – dilated pupils, psychotic behaviour, frothing at the mouth, vomiting, and acute breathlessness.

Shortly before one batch were brought in, they participated in a 5-km race as part of the ongoing recruitment drive for constables in Haryana’s police force. But their symptoms suggest more than just regular fatigue from a gruelling drill.

Doctors suspect many of them may have taken cheap performance-enhancing drugs to pass the tough physical test, timed to 25 minutes on a sweltering June day.

Sourav Kaushal, a doctor at the Kurukshetra polyclinic, told India Today’s Special Investigation Team (SIT): “We did recover pills from their pockets in a couple of cases. We have those pills with us as a sample for testing, but we can’t take any risk. We know what type of steroids they would have consumed to enhance performance. We then treat them accordingly.”

Two young hopefuls have already died of suspected drug overdoses during the current, month-long exercise.

One of the men has been identified as Somvir of Bhiwani district, and the other as Jitendra from Hisar.

Jitendra’s relatives deny he took drugs. But doctors at the hospitals have blamed their deaths on substance overdoses.

As many as five lakh applicants are expected to try their luck in the police headhunting exercise.

The India Today SIT travelled to Kurukshetra to investigate rumours of doping by candidates. The team found that the city’s government polyclinic was ill-equipped to test for drugs. But clinically, many in-coming patients show signs of drug use, says Dr Kaushal. 

His colleague at the same hospital shares the suspicions.

“He got hyper before. Now, he looks better. But you never know when he may get hyper again,” said the doctor, attending to an unconscious patient.

“It’s (the use of drugs) possible. Chances are high. None of them will admit it,” the doctor said.

Government selectors are conducting fitness tests as part of their police recruitment process in the middle of the city. Some 10,000 applicants show up every day to take part in the arduous race for 10,000 posts.

India Today’s investigative reporters also visited the site, where emergency crews and medical practitioners estimated that at least a third of those who fainted may have been suffering from the effects of dope.

“Eight to 10 runners collapsed because of drugs and 20 because of hot weather,” claimed one doctor.

Police forces across the country suffer from a chronic deficit of manpower. The problem is equally acute in Haryana.

According to a national audit report filed last year, shortage of personnel below the IPS and HPS ranks ranged between 21 per cent and 26 per cent from 2009 to 2014.

Faced with crippling unemployment, the prospect of a government job serves as the sole motivation for many candidates applying for vacant constable positions.

But fitness, officials and doctors say, often becomes a hurdle in the vigorous multi-stage selection process. And that’s why candidates may be resorting to low-cost but potentially hazardous doping, they say.

A candidate who India Today’s team spoke with claimed that he saw people offering drugs near the race location.