The anti-narcotics drive, particularly against yaba, has lost momentum since the killing of Maj (retd) Sinha Md Rashed Khan in police firing in Teknaf four months ago, resulting in an increase in the availability of the crazy pills in the capital and elsewhere.
Following the incident on July 31, the pink pills started sneaking in through Teknaf in large volumes before making their way to the capital and other parts of the country amid lax monitoring by police, said a number of yaba dealers.
The killing of Sinha, who had served in the Special Security Force, set off huge criticism against police and flung open a floodgate of allegations over various acts of brutality and misdeeds.
The entire batch of Cox's Bazar district police, including the superintendent of police, was transferred after the killing at Shamlapur checkpoint in Teknaf.
Upset by the development, police officers of various ranks said it was the police who had to take all the blame though many members of other forces and agencies dealing with narcotics in Teknaf also made financial gains from the illegal trade.
"Many drug dealers even started filing cases against us which dented our morale," said an official of the Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, who led an anti-narcotics team.
As the officers' morale was down, their subordinates also became frustrated which led to a significant drop in anti-narcotics drives and seizure of yaba, the official told The Daily Star, seeking anonymity.
Seizure of the pink pills by police declined by almost half in two months (August and September) compared to that in the two months before the Sinha killing.
Yaba dealers and peddlers said there has been a significant rise in smuggling of the pills from Myanmar in recent months.
"Yaba pills are entering the country in huge volumes, causing a drop in their prices in Teknaf and other areas," said a dealer in Teknaf, seeking anonymity.
DROP IN SEIZURE
Between June and July, police recovered 21.88 lakh pink pills across the country. It fell to 12.74 lakh pieces between August and September, according to the Police Headquarters (PHQ) data.
There was no seizure of large yaba consignments by police in Cox's Bazar and Chattogram in August and September.
Rab members, however, seized significant amounts of yaba pills in the port city during the period.
No policemen were seen at the four entry checkpoints in Chattogram city for around 20 days from August 1. The crazy pills enter the city from Cox's Bazar and are then transported to different areas.
From mid-September, the Chattogram Metropolitan Police started carrying out drives and recovered a small amount of yaba pills in the port city. On November 21, police seized a big consignment of 1.48 lakh pills in Chattogram's Chandgaon area.
In Cox's Bazar, no anti-drugs activities by police have been noticed since the Sinha killing. Only the Armed Police Battalion (APBn) members, who are on duty at different Rohingya camps, seized yaba pills at several checkpoints.
Md Hasanuzzaman, the superintendent of police in Cox's Bazar, recently told journalists that they were preparing a new list of drug dealers and would launch drives after scrutinising it.
Generally, it's the police who seize the bulk of yaba consignments every month.
Statistics show that following the Sinha killing, police in August seized 4.64 lakh yaba pills against 16.85 lakh pieces seized by Rab.
In September, police seized around 8.10 lakh yaba pills and Rab 12.43 lakh pieces.
The Border Guard Bangladesh and the Department of Narcotics Control together seized 5.41 lakh yaba pills in August and 8.08 lakh pieces in September.
Those involved in yaba trade in Teknaf said the smugglers cashed in on lax monitoring and scaled up their activities.
This led to a fall in the price of good quality yaba pills by Tk 10-20 each in Teknaf in case of bulk buying. Earlier, a pill was sold for Tk 40-50, they mentioned.
Some peddlers in the capital said the supply is now steady. Good quality pills known as "smart" are sold for Tk 150-200 each at the Geneva Camp in Mohammadpur and Karwan Bazar if one buys 10-20 pills at a time. Earlier, the price was Tk 250 each.
Md Sohel Rana, spokesperson for the police headquarters, said police are showing zero tolerance to those involved in narcotics trade.
Asked about the rise in yaba smuggling since August, Sohel, assistant inspector general (Media and Public Relations) at the PHQ, said, "The intensity of operations and drives may vary at different times."
Police are not the only force responsible for curbing the spread of drugs, he said.
"Once narcotics enter the country, those are transported to different areas. It then becomes very difficult for police to control. Still, we are trying," he mentioned.
Contacted, Director General of the Department of Narcotics Control Muhammed Ahsanul Jabbar did not agree that both smuggling and supply of yaba have increased in recent times.
He claimed that they are working hard to check yaba smuggling.
[Our correspondents FM Mizanur Shipon from Chattogram and Mohammad Ali Zinnat from Cox's Bazar contributed to this report.]