Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Drug running goes mobile

The Daily Star

ICT has proved a boon even for drug peddlers. A drug addict no longer needs to risk the hazards of going to drug dens to buy the stuff. One now simply calls a certain cellphone number, places the order, fixes a rendezvous and within a short while gets his daily dose delivered there. If one wants, he or she can get home delivery too. All is done in a neat, inconspicuous way, hard for law enforcers to detect.

Phensedyl is now available on mobile-phone order in the city's Dhanmondi, Mohammadpur, Kalyanpur, Jatrabari, Gulshan, Uttara and Old Dhaka. In posh city areas like Dhanmondi, Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara and Uttara, drug abusers can buy Phensedyl, Yaba, Ecstasy, cocaine or any injecting drug from cellphone peddlers. Pool halls, snooker clubs and cyber cafes, where upper-class youths gather most, are among the most common delivery places, especially of Yaba tablets that mainly come from Thailand and Myanmar.

"Once Shahinbagh near Mohakhali was the hub of Yaba peddling. But, now you do not need to know the spot or go there, they will deliver you Yaba if you just phone them," said an addict, who used to take the pill quite often. "You also can buy the tablet from a few spots in Dhanmondi, Mohammadpur Geneva Camp and Agargaon for Tk 200 to Tk 300," he added.

Last Thursday evening a mobile-phone peddler was seen in Dhanmondi delivering three bottles of Phensedyl carried in his socks. He came from Kalyanpur to deliver the bottles, a Phensedyl addict said, adding the usual price is Tk 350 a bottle.

Officials of the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC), the police, Detective Branch and Rapid Action Battalion claimed drug running in the city has reduced much after they made away with the notorious drug spots. But this correspondent visited and found more than 10 drug dens running smoothly, in some cases even in presence of the police.

"Law enforcers have destroyed most of the notorious drug spots in the city. Now they [drug lords] have become extra-careful and most of the peddlers have gone mobile," said DNC Deputy Director M Saiful Islam.

But, sources concerned said law enforcers raid drug dens only occasionally, while some drug pushers alleged they raid the dens when they do not get their 'regular kickbacks'.

"The police really don't want to do away with the drug dens as drug dealing is a big source of income for them. So, when they raid they nab the addicts not the traders," said a DNC high official, adding, "For us, we sincerely want to curb the trade but we don't have enough manpower."

Heroin and injecting drugs are available at Chankhar Pool, Khilkhet, Agargaon, Mirpur sections I and II, Mohammadpur, Jatrabari and Doyaganj. Apart from a number of drug dens in Old Dhaka, at least 20 other spots along the railway track from Doyaganj to Airport Railway Station are running smoothly.

Several drug addicts said, and visiting a number of well-known drug spots it was confirmed, drug abusers face no obstacle in collecting any sort of drug, whether it be cheap cannabis or a costly injection.

"You can get anything if you have money," said Islam Uddin, an Injecting Drug User of Old Dhaka. "I've been taking drugs for the last 14 years. I started with Phensedyl, and then shifted to heroin and for the last five years I have been taking injections. But, I never had much trouble in buying the drugs," he added.

Sources said the country's drug business would amount to no less than Tk 6,000 crore.

According to the National Assessment of Situation and Responses to Opiate Use in Bangladesh, drugs are being smuggled from India across the border into at least 24 districts and from Myanmar into Bandarban and Cox's Bazar.

"Smuggling routes of heroin powder, Phensedyl syrup and buprenorphine injections exist between West Bengal and Bangladesh," the report of the latest joint survey conducted by government and non-government agencies says. "Construction of bridges and national highways has facilitated drug trafficking within the country after they get smuggled in," the report adds.

Almost 90 percent of the opiates in the world are produced in the Golden Triangle comprising Laos, Thailand and Myanmar and the Golden Crescent comprising Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, sources said. As Bangladesh is located between these two opiate-producing zones, it has become an easily accessible market for opiates, they said.

"Drugs are now available everywhere -- in all the districts and upazilas, and even in many villages," said DNC Director (Control) Mofazzal Hossain.

"Huge money is involved in the drug trade. Once someone enters this business he never stops until his death," he said, adding, "So it's virtually impossible to completely rout the trade, but it's possible to control it and we're trying to do that."


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