Drug dealers are now smuggling yaba from Myanmar into Bangladesh through the Indian border with three districts in greater Sylhet using Mizoram, Meghalaya and Assam as the conduit route.
The crazy medicine first enters Mizoram, a northeastern state of India, through hill roads and then makes its way to Assam and Meghalaya states in cars, buses or motorbikes.
The consignments finally cross over into Bangladesh mainly through four points -- Zakiganj in Sylhet, Madhyanagar and Tekerghat in Sunamganj and Balla in Habiganj.
Yaba dealers have recently started to take the route, already infamous for smuggling Phensedyl, heroin and cattle, as law enforcers stepped up vigilance at Teknaf in Cox's Bazar, the easiest gateway of the drug, according to peddlers and Rab and BGB officials.
Yesterday, Rab Director General Benazir Ahmed at a programme in the capital said smugglers are carrying yaba from Meghalaya and Assam to the Indian border and then pushing it into Sylhet.
“We have set up seven camps in Cox's Bazar. So Yaba smuggling activities through the route has largely decreased…” he added.
Such consignments from Myanmar take three to four days to reach the border areas along Sylhet region. But syndicate members still prefer the route as they find it less risky with “no major checking on Indian side,” peddlers and sources in law enforcement agencies.
This is also cost effective, they added, as smugglers have to pay different drug lords at different points to bring in the pills through Teknaf point.
The use of the new route came to light after Rab arrested around 500 drug smugglers in Sylhet in the last two months.
Md Moniruzzaman, additional superintendent of police, also the deputy director of Rab-9, told The Daily Star yesterday that they have also seized around 70,000 yaba pills in Sylhet, Sunamganj and Habiganj in the last one year, which is two to three times the amount of seizure in previous years in the areas.
Law enforcers suspect some of the seized pills might have been produced in India as some peddlers arrested earlier claimed this, said a Rab official wishing anonymity.
India denies the claim.
Although the smugglers have to travel long roads to carry the consignments of yaba from Myanmar to Sylhet region, they make huge profits selling each pill at the regular retail price of Tk 300, a peddler in Sylhet region told this newspaper.
“If any crisis arises due to drives, sometimes the price rises to Tk 500-600 but that comes down after one or two days,” said the Rab official.
Lt Col Ali Haidar Azad, commanding officer of Rab-9, recently told this paper that they had already increased their vigilance along the borders in Sylhet to stop yaba smuggling.
Major Mesbah Uddin Rasel, additional director of 41 Battalion of Border Guard Bangladesh in Sylhet, said they found Zakiganj as a new smuggling point for drugs like yaba though it was a common route for smuggling cattle and some other materials.
“We have long been trying to seal the route,” he added.
Jahid Hossen Mollah, additional director of the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC), also said they are considering the new route a serious threat and trying to involve all agencies to stop the smuggling via it.
This is not the first time that the drug dealers changed Cox's Bazar route to dodge law enforcers for yaba smuggling. Earlier in April, officials found syndicates using another route.
Consignments first reached Teknaf crossing the Naf River and then went to Patuakhali's Kuakata by fishing boats on the sea route. The pill then made their way to the capital via Barisal in cars, buses or trucks.
Although such consignments take four days to arrive at Kuakata from Teknaf, the syndicate members prefer the route because they believe it is less risky than the regular route -- Teknaf-Chittagong-Dhaka where law enforcers conduct frequent raids.
The Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit of DMP had got the information about the Teknaf-Kuakata route after the arrest of two “members” of the syndicate in Motijheel area in April. From them, the officials claimed to have recovered 2 lakh yaba pills worth Tk 4 crore.
Around 10 lakh yaba pills entered Bangladesh using this route in the first three months of this year, according to CTTC officials.