Something more terrible than insurgency

Shamsul Huq Zahid | Published: February 24, 2016 00:40:32 | Updated: October 22, 2017 01:47:35

Bangladesh does produce neither phensidyl nor yaba. Its two next-door neighbours-India and Myanmar-do. But the country has to bear the disastrous consequences of two narcotics that are available abundantly even in remote rural Bangladesh.
A sizeable part of its population, mostly young people, is addicted either to phensidyl (codeine phosphate generally used as cough syrup in some countries) or yaba (a mix of methamphetamine and caffeine, known as 'crazy medicine' in Thailand and 'Nazi speed' in Europe). Hitler's scientists, reportedly, produced the mix for use by Nazi soldiers.
The attraction to phensidyl is now on the decline as addicts are switching over to yaba that, according to them, produces greater satisfaction, in terms of 'high feeling'. However, a small number of addicts prefer some other drugs to both phensidyl and yaba.
Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan while attending a 'narcotics destruction' programme of RAB-7 headquarters in Chittagong last weekend had requested Myanmar to remove the 'yaba factories' situated in its villages bordering Bangladesh. Illegal consignments of yaba tablets entering Bangladesh do have their origin in Myanmar.  A number of yaba factories have been set up by the criminals in Myanmar border villages. Land, sea and river routes are used to smuggle yaba tablets into Bangladesh.
According to the Department of Narcotics Control statistics, various government agencies seized nearly 20 million pieces of yaba in 2015 while the number was about 130,000 in 2009. The size of the seized narcotics does clearly indicate how big the number of tablets entering Bangladesh is. There exists a well-knit network to make available the drugs to the addicts who can be found almost everywhere. Even a section of dishonest law enforcers, allegedly, use these pink tablets to extort money from innocent people, falsely accusing them as carriers. 
The home minister has expressed the hope that Myanmar would remove the yaba factories demonstrating its good-neighbourly attitude. Mr. Asaduzzaman, however, did not forget the issue of phensidyl. He said following requests from Bangladesh India had been removing the phensidyl factories.
But statistics on phensidyl bottle seizure does not anyway indicate that India has removed factories. The number of incidents of phensidyl smuggling has remained more or less unchanged. The average number of bottles seized annually by the law enforcers and other relevant agencies for the past few years has remained in between 800,000 and 900,000.
The extent of damage being caused by these two widely used drugs to the nation is extensive. The drugs have been taking an enormous social and economic toll.
It would not be, however, out of place to look at the drug issue in the context of the attempt to resolve the problem of insurgency with the help of close neighbours.
New Delhi has made it loud and clear that Dhaka should not allow the use of Bangladesh soil by terrorists or insurgents working against the interest of India. Bangladesh has already ensured it and handed over a few leaders of the insurgent outfit, called, ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam) to Indian authorities.
Bangladesh has been suffering, both economically and socially due to the smuggling of phensidyl and yaba. The ULFA insurgency issue is a different one, for it relates to India's sovereignty and territorial integrity.  The insurgents have killed a number of people, ambushed military convoys, targeted oil pipelines and carried out some other 'subversive' activities. But the extent of damage that phensidyl, the first addictive drug to enter Bangladesh from India, has been causing is hard to measure.   
The high demand for phensidyl has helped mushrooming of factories producing the same in Indian villages bordering Bangladesh. These factories have been producing low-quality phensidyl at low costs and then smuggle out the same to Bangladesh.  
An identical development has also taken place along Bangladesh-Myanmar border. With the demand for yaba going up astronomically, makeshift factories in Myanmar villages along Bangladesh border sprang up almost overnight and started making brisk business.
However, the phensidyl and yaba have been playing a very prominent role in the underworld economy of three countries. It is not that manufacturers, traffickers and street sellers of the drugs are only beneficiaries. There are others, including politicians, border guards, law enforcers and a few invisible people, who also accrue benefits for themselves from phensidyl and yaba trade.
The drug trade is worth billions of dollars. It has a role in the accumulation of black money in any country and Bangladesh is no exception.
Bangladesh is not harbouring any insurgent group either from India or Myanmar as requested by its two close neighbours. So, the former can expect some good neighbourly gestures from both the countries through the removal of drug manufacturing factories along their respective border villages. It is most likely there would be attempts to sabotage such a move, if initiated at all. Yet the two governments should accomplish the job without slightest hesitation.

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