The trade of illegal drug Yaba is booming in the capital under political patronisation. A section of policemen, who are supposed to clamp down on Yaba traders, are also working as the patrons, according to police findings.
Some of the corrupt cops could not be transferred while they remained assigned to a known drug spot in the capital for long and facilitated the trade of narcotics including Yaba. They somehow persuaded the higher authorities not to change their place of duty.
A report prepared by the Dhaka Metropolitan Police months back found nearly 100 godfathers, mostly from the Awami League and its front organisations, patronise drug trade, particularly Yaba, in the capital.
The DMP also named two leaders from the BNP and the Jatiya Party, some policemen and an official of the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC).
The sale of Yaba, a mix of methamphetamine and caffeine, usually consumed in pill form, is so high that the report estimates 38,000 pills are sold every day in DMP’s six crime divisions — Uttara, Gulshan, Ramna, Tejgaon, Mirpur and Motijheel.
Policemen engaged in intelligence gathering could not estimate the quantity of the pills sold in Wari and Lalbagh — two other divisions where Yaba trade continues.
The DNC statistics show the number of seized Yaba rose 22 times in the last five years, suggesting how rapidly its use and trade are surging in Bangladesh. In 2011, it was around 13.60 lakh pills.
In 2016, police, Rab, DNC, BGB and other agencies seized around 2.94 crore pills, according to the Annual drug report of DNC.
Yaba consumption per year in Bangladesh is guestimated to be 29.45 crore pills worth around Tk 7,363 core, almost twice the cost of Jamuna bridge construction. Average price of pill is Tk 250 each, which means over eight lakh pills are consumed every day.
“The seized volume represents only eight to 10 percent of the total quantity smuggled into the country, mostly from Myanmar,” Nazrul Islam Shikder, additional director (intelligence) of DNC, told The Daily Star.
Most of the Yaba pills are made in labs in the lawless border regions of Myanmar and then smuggled into Bangladesh. In recent years, different gangs started producing the pills on a small scale inside the country after smuggling in the ingredients, according to national anti-drugs officials.
Asked about the use of Bangladesh as a route for smuggling, Nazrul Islam Shikder said rackets used the country for smuggling the pills mainly to the Middle East. “We also seized two consignments of Yaba from the airport; they were being sent to Dubai by courier service.”
A high official of an intelligence agency, requesting anonymity, said they have often shared with Myanmar the list of Yaba factories, mainly run by some rival groups backed by government forces.
An addict consumes up to 10-12 pills a day subject to how addicted the person is to Yaba, also known as crazy drug, Nazi speed and Baba. There are many who take only one pill a day, said a doctor who treats Yaba addicts.
The reason behind the soaring popularity of Yaba is the users also get involved in selling it as in multi-level marketing.
“One of the factors behind the rapid spread of Yaba use is that many users at one stage get involved in the business,” Mukul Jyoti Chakma, deputy director (Dhaka metro) of DNC, told The Daily Star recently.
THE POLICE LIST
According to the DMP, the godfathers include 16 ward councillors, 15 of them from the ruling Awami League and one from the BNP.
Three presidents and a secretary of AL ward committees and a secretary of thana committee are involved with the racket.
Police named two presidents and six secretaries of thana-level Jubo League and two Chhatra League secretaries of thana committees.
Three Swechchhasebak League presidents and one secretary of ward committees, two presidents of thana committees and a city unit president have also been mentioned by police.
Besides, a thana-level president of Bastuhara League and a ward-level secretary of Tanti League have figured on the list.
Two sub-inspectors — one from a city police station and one from Narcotics Control Department (DNC) — and some patrol police team members are also on the list of godfathers.
The DMP also compiled names and details of around 1,100 dealers and retailers of the drug.
The list was submitted to the Police Headquarters which forwarded it to the home ministry, said a reliable source.
The Daily Star obtained a copy of it.
Visiting different drug spots, this correspondent learnt that many known Yaba dealers and retailers were not named in the list while some lower-tier police and DNC officials who allegedly take bribes from Yaba dealers are also left out.
A top official at the Police Headquarters said not all the listed political godfathers are directly involved in the illegal trade. Their names came up as the dealers and retailers of Yaba, heroin and Phensedyl run the business with their support.
In January, the headquarters prepared a list of 20,000 drug peddlers from across the country.
AL lawmaker Abdur Rahman Bodi, allegedly the godfather of Yaba smuggling, has been named in a list of Yaba smugglers prepared by the home ministry. His three brothers, brother-in-laws and some other relatives have also been listed for their involvement in Yaba smuggling.
Deputy Commissioner of a DMP crime division said in his area, he could not contain drug peddling at what has been an infamous drug spot for decades. “I found some officials of Special Branch linked with the traders,” he said.
“They [the officials] have long been serving at the same place. Then I requested the authorities to transfer them and the situation started improving,” he told The Daily Star, wishing anonymity.
A Police Headquarters source said departmental inquiry is underway against 139 policemen from the ranks of inspector down to constables while actions have already been taken against 13 for their links with drug traders and taking bribe.
Asked how the smuggling, trade and use can be tackled, former inspector general of police Nur Mohammad said one effective way can be regular crackdowns with the help of local political leaders across the country. Local leaders know very well who are involved in drug smuggling and trading.
“Besides, the public awareness campaign which is already in place should go on vigorously,” he added.