Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Booming trade along border

Phensidyl
Booming trade along border
They usually go there in groups, crossing the international border, unchallenged. Some 20 makeshift houses there, just along the zero line in India, sell phensidyl, an addictive cough syrup. The houses are on the Dhorla river, opposite to Chauratari village under Moghalhat upazila, approximately nine kilometres west of Lalmonirhat town. Every day, more than 100 people cross the Bangladesh border to take phensidyl, as the contraband drug is cheaper there than anywhere in Bangladesh.
Taking this advantage in an afternoon, two youths came there from Lalmonirhat town. They parked their motorbike at the edge of the village and walked to the Indian houses.
“What’s the rate today?” one of them asked a woman.
“It’s a bit higher today … Tk 180 a bottle,” she replied.
The youths had ordered two. While they were taking the drug another woman appeared and alerted them to the presence of Indian Border Security Force (BSF) in the locality. The youths soon got back to Bangladesh.
A few minutes later, BSF members came to the spot and crossed the river accompanied by some villagers. Locals say tresspassing there is rampant.
Lalmonirhat has 22 pockets through which over 1 lakh bottles of phensidyl enter Bangaldesh every day, say different agencies.
According to Nadu Islam, leader of a smuggling group in Boalmarichar area, about 500 groups are active in Lalmonirhat, each bringing in at least 3,000 bottles per day.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
With India, Bangladesh shares a 4,144-kilometre border, which is dotted with numerous smuggling routes. Hundreds of unauthorised factories in the Indian territory produce millions of bottles of phensidyl to smuggle to Bangladesh.
Although no statistics of phensidyl smuggling is available, countrywide recovery gives an idea of its enormous supply.
Every day, around 4,000 bottles are recovered by the members of Border Guard Bangladesh, police, Rapid Action Battalion, coastguards and railway police.
The quantity is only 10 percent of the total drug trafficked, as per an international estimation.
According to the Department of Narcotics Control and Ahsania Mission, the country has a total of 5 million drug abusers, of whom 30 percent are phensidyl addicts.
Various NGOs dealing with the problem have put the estimated number at 1.2 crore, of whom 5 million consume phensidyl.
“We are now treating 250 patients; 150 of them are phensidyl abusers,” said Asaduzzaman Jewel, a counsellor of one such NGO.
In the border areas, each bottle of phensidyl sells between Tk 150 and Tk 180, while in Dhaka, it is Tk 800 and Tk 1,200. Such high profit is the main reason behind the large scale trading in the country.
From Moghalhat upazila, the smuggled bottles are supplied to Bogra, Pabna and Dhaka,” said Samrat, a resident of Chauratari village.
Habibur Rahman, chairman of Moghalhat upazila parishad, said youths of solvent families, students and even teachers took phensidyl there. “We failed to stop the abuse, as the business is very lucrative.”

-With The Daily Star input

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