The pandemic is leaving an adverse impact on almost every sector, but when it comes to drug smuggling, Covid-19 has just been a reason to come up with newer, more innovative ideas and techniques.
During the government-induced shutdown, top dealers have reserved narcotics at bordering districts after smuggling those from neighbouring countries Myanmar and India.
At the time, they tried to send small consignments to different districts from the border areas using emergency product carrying service.
Since the shutdown has been relaxed, the smugglers are becoming more and more active, according to law enforcers and sources among narcotics dealers.
In April, when the shutdown was in full force and movement was heavily restricted, only 81 cases were filed on narcotics charge and 88 people got arrested across the country, shows a database of the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC).
But when the shutdown was relaxed during Eid in May, around 480 cases were filed and 519 people were arrested by DNC.
Before the shutdown, around 1,677 cases were filed against 171 people in January, 1,767 cases filed against 1,840 people in February and 1,412 cases were filed against 1,468 people in March by the DNC, shows the database.
Data from police headquarters show, number of narcotics cases have started to increase in May after the shutdown relaxed. Around 7,625 narcotics cases were filed across the country in March.
However, only 1,640 narcotics-related cases were filed in April, while the figure increased to 2,465 for the month of May.
Khorshid Alam, assistant director of DNC, told The Daily Star that narcotics dealings had slowed down due to the heavy restriction on movement during April.
"During this period, the supply from border areas to Dhaka declined, and the majority of narcotics were recovered at the border districts and the cases were also filed there," he said.
But in May, movement increased again as restrictions were relaxed, narcotics dealers managed to pick up their operations again.
According to sources, narcotics smuggling could never be stopped during the entire shutdown period.
"Yaba supply comes from Myanmar as usual. But the majority of dealers used to preserve these pills in different places as they did not have a way to send those to Dhaka and other districts," this correspondent found out from a source who has connection with narcotics dealers.
Wing Commander Azim Ahmed, commanding officer of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab-15) in Cox's Bazar, also said Covid-19 had no effect on narcotics smuggling.
"Consignments of yaba come from Myanmar and we also seized three consignments of phensedyl, which was going to Myanmar from Bangladesh," he told The Daily Star.
"We are conducting multiple drives to arrest smugglers," he added.
Detective Branch of Police seized around 1.80 lakh yaba tablets and arrested three alleged drug peddlers from Cox's Bazar's Ramu upazila on June 20.
On June 16, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB 34 battalion) in Cox's Bazar recovered around 1.20 lakh yaba from Rezu Khal. From January 1, 20202 till date, the battalion seized 16.29 lakh yaba pills and arrested around 287 people for involvement in narcotics smuggling.
HOW DO THEY DO IT?
Sources say narcotics dealers use courier services and emergency supply services like vegetable, fish and agricultural product carrying vehicles to deliver the drugs to Dhaka.
Various items are used to conceal the drugs, such as brooms, fruit baskets, rice cookers, sacks of rice, vegetables and baby food containers, said law enforcers.
Last week, Rab-2 recovered 3,750 pieces of yaba tablets hidden inside a pick-up van and arrested two from New Market area. During interrogation, the arrestees said that they used to bring the pills from Cox's Bazar to Dhaka by concealing them inside different everyday items.
Rab-2 also arrested a couple and recovered 500 grams of heroin hidden inside a basket of mangoes and a pressure cooker from a courier service at the capital's Elephant Road recently.
On May 18, a team of Rab-4 arrested four people and recovered 40 kilograms of marijuana, which they were smuggling hiding inside rice sacks. The next day, a team of Rab-2 recovered 190 bottles of phensedyl, 1,375 pieces of Yaba and 17 kg marijuana from a pick up van which was smuggling the drugs inside a gas cylinder.
Mohammed Mohiuddin Faruqe, superintendent of police, who worked as a company commander of Rab-2 and recently transferred to police headquarters, said, "They [narcotics suppliers and dealers] use cell phones that are registered under fake identity cards, so it becomes difficult to trace their location," said Faruqe, who conducted a number of drives.
Sohel Rana, assistant inspector general of PHQ, said "Police is aware that illegal drug traders and peddlers may be more active now in this repose of corona pandemic. We have directed our units to remain vigilant to stop a spike in the drug trade."
"The drives and subsequent legal action against drug peddling will continue," he added.