Drug inspector Neha Shoree, who was shot dead at her office in Kharar by an assailant, was among toppers in her entrance examinations at NIPER and later in her MSc (Pharmacy), too.
"Neha was not comfortable in her job. Sometimes I felt that she was hiding something from us. And whenever I tried to enquire, she avoided my queries. She is a martyr who sacrificed her life in the battle against the drug mafia. Why was my daughter shot dead? It proves she was performing her duty with utmost honesty and did not succumb to any pressure," Captain Kailash Kumar Shoree (retd), who served in the Indian Army until 1980.
"I participated in the Indo-Pakistan War in 1971 for my country. And today, the drug mafia of this country snatched my daughter from me," the grieving father added. Nishant Shoree, Neha’s elder brother, also said the drug mafia in Punjab was behind the murder of his sister and questioned how Balwinder could obtain an arms licence when the Model Code Conduct is imposed.
Her teacher Dr Neeraj said she was among top five in the entrance exam for admission to MSc (Pharma). Later in her Master’s Degree at NIPER also, she scored eighth rank.
“Neha was cooperative and an obedient student. She was intelligent and dedicated to studies. She was also a loving student for everyone,” he said.
According to him, Neha completed her BCom from Panjab University in 2004 and did her MSc from here in 2006. During her studies here, she worked on the anti-cancer drug delivery system.
Neha then got a job in a private institute. She later cleared the Punjab Public Services Commission examinations to join Punjab’s Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) as an inspector in October 2007.
“When I got to know about the incident, I could not believe. I asked someone to crosscheck it. Even when the news of her murder was confirmed to me, I could not accept it for a long time,” her teacher said. Mahesh Chand, a technical staff member posted in a laboratory where he was associated with her for two months, recalled: “It is sad news for us. Her nature was good and she was excellent in her studies.”
No criminal proceedings were pending against Balwinder Singh, the man who shot himself after killing Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officer Neha Shoree in her Kharar office on Friday, in which the victim was to depose as a witness against him.
No application for restoration of Balwinder’s drug licence, which was cancelled in 2008 following recovery of intoxicant drugs, was pending before Neha, who was the zonal licensing authority (ZLA) for Mohali and Ropar districts with her office at Kharar.
Balwinder had killed Neha by pumping in four bullets into her body when she was sitting in her office on Friday before killing himself when he found it was impossible to escape from the spot.
While the cops investigating the crime are baffled as to how can a person wait for 11 years to revenge for an act and are trying to find out whether there was any recent trigger for the crime, senior officers of the FDA deny this.
“According to our records, no criminal proceedings were pending against Balwinder where Neha was to appear as witness against him. Nor there is application of restoration of his drug licence pending with the FDA,” said Pardeep Kumar Mattu, State Drug Controller-cum-Joint Commissioner, FDA, Punjab.
“In fact, when we find intoxicants from a chemist shop, we cancel its drug licence and no criminal proceedings are launched. We take recourse to legal proceeding only in case of recovery of spurious drugs or drugs being stored or sold without a valid licence. The cases where narcotics are recovered from a person are dealt by a different authority and not by the FDA,” Mattu said.
Bhagwant Singh, SHO of the Kharar police station, had earlier said that the police were investigating the angles that Balwinder might have applied for the restoration of his licence or Neha could be a likely witness against him in a pending criminal case in relation to the 2009 raid on his shop.
The raid at Balwinder’s shop was part of an intensive state-wide crackdown launched by Laxmi Kanta Chawla during her three-year (2007-2010) stint as the Health Minister of Punjab. During this period, hundreds of chemist shops, especially in the rural and semi-urban areas, were shut down for allegedly selling habit-forming drugs to addicts.
“Neha was one of the most dedicated and upright officers of our force and she had cracked many such cases. It will be difficult to provide details of all such cases offhand today, but in several cases where Neha was part of the raiding parties, licences of chemists were suspended or cancelled,” said Mattu.
He clarified that the cancellation of licence was ordered by the senior authorities after following a procedure and officers like Neha, who was drug inspector at Ropar at that time, merely recovered contrabands and reported to the higher authorities.