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Dangerous drugs find their way across Indo-Bangla border

By Syed Tashfin Chowdhury
October 12, 2012 18:38 IST
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At the conclusion of the third director general-level conference between representatives of Bangladesh and India in Delhi last week, the two countries expressed their concerns over the rising trend of 'synthetic and party' drugs being trafficked across the open border.

As the drugs are being used by the youth on either sides of the border, both countries have decided to share "actionable intelligence and information" regarding such drugs, which are available under names like Speed and Ecstasy.

During the two-day conference, Director General of Bangladesh's Narcotics Control Mohammad Iqbal, along with his team, had discussed the issues with India's Narcotics Control Bureau Director General Ajay Chadha and his delegation.

During a joint media interaction, after the conference, NCB chief Ajay Chadha said that Phensedyl, a codeine-based syrup, was a challenge for Indian security agencies.

"India is trying to curb Phensedyl smuggling from the Indian side to Bangladesh," he said while adding that a number of vulnerable smuggling points along the border have been identified at the meeting, in a bid to increase vigil by the government agencies.

"We are worried over the increase in the volume and usage of new synthetic drugs across the borders that we share," said Mohammad Iqbal of Bangladesh's DNC. "We need to protect the future generations from this menace," he added.

At the conference, both agencies signed a joint declaration emphasising additional measures to combat drug smuggling. The two DGs also decided that the Indian BSF and Bangladesh's BGB will hold regular meetings to address issues related to psychotropic drugs and contrabands.

The India-Bangladesh border has been a lucrative trafficking route for drug dealers for the past few decades, as pointed out by two recent studies.

A May 2012 Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses paper, titled Drug trafficking in India: A case for border security by Dr Pushpita Das, said that given its large pharmaceutical industrial base, India produces a large number of prescription drugs, most of which, containing dextropropoxyphene and codeine, are trafficked to neighbouring countries.

The report read, "Phensedyl has become the chief item for smuggling into Bangladesh" as "truckloads of Phensedyl bottles from the factory are diverted to the north-east and West Bengal by distributors and stockists for this purpose. In addition, empty Phensedyl bottles are refilled with higher narcotic content and repackaged as Phensedyl plus and smuggled back into Bangladesh."

The paper also pointed out that among traditional drugs, heroin and marijuana is trafficked from India to Bangladesh. Marijuana is smuggled through Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura, where farmers actually grow it as crops to yield better returns. Heroin finds its way from Myanmar into India and while some of it is sold in India, a bulk of it is smuggled to Bangladesh.

The March 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs under the US Department of State, stated, "India is strategically located between Southwest Asia (the Golden Crescent) and Southeast Asia (the Golden Triangle), the two main sources of illicit opium" which also makes it "an attractive transshipment area for heroin bound for Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia and North America."

Also, "India is authorised by the international community to produce licit opium for pharmaceutical uses. India is also a major chemical precursor producer, including Acetic Anhydride, Ephedrine, and Pseudoephedrine."

The report also said that India has become one of the main sources of Ketamine, a veterinary anesthesia which is not under international control, and "the number of significant Ketamine seizures at major airports, in sea containers and in parcels continues to increase."

The report stressed that India also manufactures organic and synthetic licit opiate/psychotropic pharmaceuticals.
"Destined for licit sales in markets around the world, these items (raw opium, chemical precursors, Ketamine, LOPPS) are vulnerable to diversion, including through illegally operating Internet pharmacies," stated the report. 

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Syed Tashfin Chowdhury in Dhaka