Drugs being used to pay for fish

Narcotic drugs are being used to settle the payment for a large volume of various goods being sent from Bangladesh to the Indian state of Tripura. This was mentioned in a letter sent on 17 October by the foreign ministry to the ministry of home affairs. The letter stated that when fish is sent from Bangladesh to Tripura, the payment is often made with drugs.

The Indian state Tripura is located on the border with Bangladesh. Bangladesh has a deputy high commission in Agartala, the capital city of Tripura. On 11 October, the high commission sent a report to the foreign ministry in Dhaka, pointing to this trading in drugs.

Based on this report, the foreign ministry on 17 October sent letters to seven agencies of the government, including the home ministry and commerce ministry, apprising them of the issue. The matter was also raised at the meeting of the cabinet committee on law and order held on 19 October.

In the letter sent by the Bangladesh deputy high commission in Agartala about the 'Tripura drug trade', it was said that Tripura was a corridor for drug trade. This corridor was used to carry various narcotic substances like yaba, heroin and other drugs from Myanmar to Tripura via Mizoram and Assam in India. The drugs then, after that, enter Bangladesh.

Sources in the Bangladesh deputy high commission in Agartala said that drug trade is carried out under cover of the import and export of goods with Tripura. And the transactions are carried out outside of the legal banking channels, through 'hundi'.

Speaking to Prothom Alo over mobile phone, Bangladesh's deputy high commissioner in Agartala, Arif Mohammad, said there is reportedly often under-invoicing when letters of credit (L/C) are opened for the import and export of goods with Tripura. Several persons were spoken to, including businessmen and members of civil society in Tripura, before compiling the report.

Foreign ministry sources said that at the 'Regional Meeting on Drug Trafficking and National Security' held on 8 October in Guwahati of Assam, India, Tripura's chief minister Manik Saha raised the drug trade issue.

He said that Tripura was being used as a corridor for drug smuggling. Mentioning three types of drug trade in Tripura, he said that the drugs come from Myanmar and are sent on to Bangladesh via Tripura.

According to the foreign ministry sources, the Tripura chief minister also said that since the year 2000, marijuana (ganja) cultivation has taken on unimaginable proportions in Tripura. This drug was being sent to various states of India as well as Bangladesh. He also highlighted the various measures against drug smuggling adopted by the Tripura government since 2018. He also mentioned the need to strengthen the Indian Border Security Force to stop drug smuggling across the border and also for regular talks with Bangladesh.

Observations of Bangladesh Deputy High Commission in Agartala

In the observations made by Bangladesh's deputy high commission in Agartala, it was said that this spread of drugs in Tripura is harming Bangladesh the most. The report said that while generally speaking marijuana was seen as the common drug in Tripura, in actuality yaba and phensydyl had crossed all previous records.

The main source of yaba tablets was Myanmar and these mostly enter Bangladesh through Cox's Bazar district and Chittagong Hill Tracts. As Bangladesh has strengthened security in those regions, the drug traders have changed their route to Myanmar-Manipur-Tripura-Bangladesh and Myanmar-Mizoram-Assam-Tripura-Bangladesh to smuggle yaba.

The report said that the former chief minister of Tripura, Biplob Kumar Deb, had once remarked, "While apparently BGB (Border Guard Bangladesh) and BSF (India's Border Security Force) maintain a distance from each other, for some reason they all become one when it comes to drug trafficking."

Referring to the foreign ministry's letter pertaining to the drug trade, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan on Sunday told Prothom Alo, "This is an alarming matter. They take goods from Bangladesh and reportedly pay in drugs. We must speedily identify who these people are. We will hold a meeting on the matter within a day or two."