Destructive drugs: Are these drives just for show

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

It’s an open secret that narcotics are smuggled into Bangladesh and there’s a booming business of it going on here. But, we still cannot help but be stunned at the news that we are the fifth globally or at the top among Asian countries in terms of siphoning off drug-related money. We have made progress in many sectors. But that doesn’t mean this ‘progress’ of narcotics can be accepted in any way.

Every year, USD 481 million or about Tk 51.47 billion is siphoned off from Bangladesh because of narcotics. This information came up in a report related to illicit financial flows on the website of UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) recently.

An approximate record of narcotics-related financial flows of nine countries including Bangladesh has been highlighted there. The other eight countries on the list are Afghanistan, Columbia, Ecuador, Maldives, Mexico, Myanmar, Nepal and Peru.

According to the UNCTAD report, Mexico stands first in the world when it comes to illicit drug-related financial flows. And in Asia, Bangladesh beats Maldives, Nepal, Afghanistan and Myanmar to the top. After analysing five years' data and information from 2017 to 2021, UNCTAD has come up for the first time with this picture of illicit financial flows through narcotics.

Displaced Rohingya population from Myanmar has a link to narcotics being smuggled into Bangladesh and the drug trade going on here. Narcotics basically arrive in Bangladesh through the Myanmar border. In the past Phensedyl used to come via the areas bordering India. While yaba and ice have been coming in recent times.

Narcotics-related issues were more or less there, even before. The problem became acute further after 750,000 Rohingya citizens, driven out of Myanmar arrived in Bangladesh in 2017. Rohingya camps have turned into major drug trading hubs. Even international drug smugglers are also using Bangladesh as their transit route.  

Prothom Alo reports that there are 520 drug traders on the outskirts of Dhaka. When there are 500 plus drug traders in a single region, it’s not difficult to guess the number from all over the country. Drug trade has been thriving even in rural areas, going beyond cities.

The matter of concern is that the list of 520 drug traders on the outskirts of Dhaka also includes the names of local public representatives as well as ruling party leaders and activists. Local public representatives and leaders-activists of different political parties including the ruling Awami League are getting involved with the narcotics business there.

Some are also making wealth with the drug-trading money. No matter how much political conflicts are there among them, the drug trade indeed has been going on together. Narayanganj has turned into a transit point of transporting narcotics to different parts of the country including Dhaka.

It doesn’t seem the leaders of the state have been able to realise that narcotics have caused huge damage to the country and the young generation. When there have been so many anti-narcotics drives, so much money have been spent in raising public awareness, so many people have died in alleged gunfights, yet why the proliferation of drug couldn’t be reduced then?

Once drugs arrive crossing the border, it will reach drug users no matter what. So the first thing that needs to be done is to prevent narcotics from entering the country. Displaced Rohingya population is ruining the environment of Cox’s Bazar as well as they have had a bad impact on the public life there. But the destructive drugs have started to engulf the whole country.

If the government and authorities concerned are not aware of the matter right now, we will have to wait for a devastating consequences.