The terrible tentacles of the Yaba scourge

Shihab Sarkar | Published: April 26, 2018 21:32:54 | Updated: April 26, 2018 21:35:29

Perhaps there are few countries in the world where the subterranean demon in man pops up as appallingly as it does in Bangladesh. The monstrous force comes out not on its own or spontaneously. It has to be conjured up, and made to appear by a drifting section in society. The practice has long been in place in the country. Substance abuse, or drug addiction, plays a catalyst's role in this terrible summoning of the dark force. Of late, drugs, especially the one called Yaba, have started wreaking havoc on social peace. Ranging from gruesome killings to stunning sexual offences, a series of aberrant behaviours have been blamed on the spell of this drug. Of all these crimes, experts in social norms have especially homed in on the recent spate in the disconcerting turn of sexual offences targeting young women, especially girl children. They are not safe anywhere. Neither at one's home or the own neighbourhood, nor on public transport in the metropolitan Dhaka. Males under the seizure of Yaba are on the prowl.

The state of being possessed by the Yaba demon makes an addict bereft of the normal human qualities. The necessity of rational thinking and behaviour turns meaningless to him. An overdose of certain drugs, including Yaba, brings the beast out of a person. A long period of exposure to substances robs people of all their strength and productivity. Many a young man has thus emerged as a drag on society.  They are above everything; ranging from social and familial realities to private matters-nothing on the mundane level touches them. They are happy with being stuck in a world of reverie, which at times appears to be a collage of terrible desires and fantasies. The persons caught in this virtually inescapable web once included mainly youths and teenagers. They were mostly males. As time goes by, young women and the relatively elderly males are found joining the male-dominated area detached from reality.

When the country's general people remain busy with their respective business, a considerably large segment of society is going the devil's way. They have chosen to live on the margin of the mainstream life. In many cases others, including their peers, have lured them into becoming social pariahs. They love to remain hooked on Yaba, currently the most horrid of addictive drugs in the country after heroin.

After the lull of a few years, the mind-altering drug has staged a comeback with vengeance. When it began trickling into the country nearly two decades ago, its abuse used to be limited to capital Dhaka and the large cities. In the following years, the synthetic drug flooded the whole country. Along with the sleepy little towns, it spread its tentacles to the vast rural areas. From small markets, fairs, recreational events to the traditionally blissful remote hamlets, the scourge of Yaba addiction emerged everywhere as a normal phenomenon. In some respects, the drug showed its dreadful impact on village life more fiercely than on life in the cities.

Like all other hard drugs, Yaba is insidious and powerful. Its entry into the rural swathes has changed the Bangladesh villages drastically. When it comes to vulnerable youths, they found the addiction going hand in hand with the allied channels of deviant pleasures. These recreations, tinged with sensuality and violence, reached the youths through audio-visual mediums in the beginning --- porno movies in particular. As time wore on, the availability of images of these carnal pleasures continued to be easier thanks to the mushrooming presence of internet-connected computers and smart phones. The whole episode, exacerbated by Yaba, prompted many to commit sex-related crimes. The combination of the base way of using the Net, the Yaba influence and the perverse display of macho has emerged as a formidable force. It is both vicious and glaringly visible. Due to its facades of invisibility, the social malady remains largely unnoticed or unreported in the cities. But in the plebeian and folksy rural ambience, it cannot escape public notice. Unlike in the urban areas, the eyes of the people in villages do not remain wide shut.  

Outwardly a tablet taken to keep oneself awake and full of energy for days on end, it appeared as a highly abusive drug in the 1980s. The tablet was allegedly prescribed for American soldiers during the Vietnam War. It is a combination of methamphetamine and caffeine. With roots in the Southeast Asian region, especially in the Thai and Myanmar remote areas, the medicine-turned-drug now enters Bangladesh through its border with Myanmar. Drug smugglers have been using the route since beginning. The same cross-border passage still remains intact. But the routes used for passing the drug on to Dhaka, Chattogram and the other parts of the country continue to change. The previous passage for the Dhaka-bound drug consignments comprised a route linking Teknaf, Chattogram, Cumilla and Dhaka. Finding the route hazardous, thanks to law enforcers' constant patrol and checkpoints, drug traffickers discovered a new passage. Lately, they have started carrying Yaba through a sea route connecting Teknaf with Kuakata beach town. From there the consignments are taken to Barishal and then to Dhaka by road. The clandestine route came to light from a statement given recently by two alleged drug traffickers nabbed by the CTTC (Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime) unit of police in the capital. One million tablets are said to have already been sent to Dhaka through this new route.

A lot of developed countries have long been plagued by drug abuse. The USA stands out among them. In order to face the challenge posed by drug abuse and its smuggling into the country, the US has a stringent anti-drug law in place. It is supplemented by a nearly foolproof surveillance network against smuggling of drugs into the country. The syndicates engaged in trafficking drugs, chiefly cocaine, into the US mainland use sea routes connecting it to the drug producing countries. They are mostly located in some Central and South American countries. Drugs are carried to the country mainly by fishing boats. Due to their sharp watch and constant patrol, the US anti-drug law enforcers have earned the fame of being one of the most efficient strike forces in the present times.

In the US urban centres, drug abuse has lately emerged as great social problem. Drugs there are no longer confined to the traditional cocaine only. The ill repute of cannabis is long gone. A couple of states have tentatively legalised it. People craving for 'super-highs' are increasingly turning to nearly lethal intravenous drugs. Some of these drugs, after a few shots, take one to the doorstep of death. They are reportedly the much sought-after drugs in the US today. A recent cover story on drug abuse and overdose in the US published in the Time magazine presents a grim portrayal of the country's drug scenario. Titled 'Opioid Diaries', the report says around 64,000 deaths occur a year in the USA due to drug overdose. The phenomenon has been termed an 'addiction epidemic' by the country's medical professionals and community leaders.

Deaths from drug overdose have yet to emerge as frequent events in the Bangladesh. It, however, exacts a heavy toll on society. Unlike in the USA, the addicts in the country relish violence and abhorrently anti-social activities while on dope. The young American addicts silently waste away to embrace death eventually; in Bangladesh the Yaba-hooked youths frantically look for vile outlets to satiate their drug-induced cravings. In a country grappling with its efforts aimed at bare survival, too much concentration on drug-related menaces seems to be an added burden. But the nation can ill afford to overlook the hydra-headed monster. It's a great dilemma.


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