New Delhi, December 15
A sharp rise in the smuggling of yaba or ‘crazy medicine’ drug tablets — almost double than the much-abused Phensedyl cough syrup — along the country’s eastern front with Bangladesh has alarmed security agencies prompting them to tweak their strategy for curbing the new menace, according to government reports and officials.
A dossier prepared by a central security organisation notes that while India at present is a “transit” territory for the circular-shaped and red-coloured drug, its “increased inflow clearly indicates that it is just a matter of time for such an addictive drug to gain a foothold in India”.
It adds that Indian smugglers, involved in illegal Phensedyl transport, are “now shifting” to yaba due to high demand and profitability.
“The concern of the security, intelligence and anti-narcotics agencies against yaba transit for cross-border smuggling and use within our territory has specifically grown after witnessing the seizure figures of the last two years.
“The development is alarming but the agencies are prepared,” a senior Union home ministry official told PTI.
According to data compiled by the India-Bangladesh international border guarding force BSF, over 7.22 lakh yaba tablets were seized by its teams along the front last year as compared to over 3.08 lakh bottles of Phensedyl that used to be main drugs to be smuggled across to the neighbouring country.
This year, uptil November, the Border Security Force seized over 6.65 lakh yaba tablets as compared to about 5 lakh Phensedyl bottles.
In previous years, total Phensedyl (a codeine-based cough syrup abused as an intoxicant in Bangladesh) smuggling volumes were always much higher than yaba.
Yaba has many aliases like Thai name ‘crazy medicine’, ‘madness drug’ or ‘Nazi speed’ and is a combination of stimulants, the most important being methamphetamine and caffeine. It is stated to be manufactured in labs based in Myanmar using raw material sourced from China and is smuggled to Bangladesh from its border or through India.
The dossier said Bangladesh and Myanmar share a 270-km border and a large part falls along the river Naf from where the smuggling of yaba is “mainly carried out”.
The drug is consumed in many ways like smoking it off tinfoil, ‘chasing the dragon’ technique of inhaling its fumes by heating on an aluminium foil, taken orally or crushed and snorted.
Officials say the drug is especially targeted at the youth and its abuse leads to anxiety, aggression and prolonged exposure may lead to varying levels of damage to kidneys, heart, liver and the brain.
Bangladesh has come down heavily on yaba peddlers and syndicates over the last few years by arresting and neutralising many such operatives and they seek active assistance of Indian authorities to curb the smuggling at every bilateral meeting forum, a senior anti-narcotics agency officer told PTI.
The BSF, as per two senior officials, has issued fresh directives to its border patrols to check its smuggling along the 4,096-km long front after the drug was recovered in areas where it was “never seized” like West Bengal.
“Unfenced and riverine border areas are most vulnerable for yaba smuggling as it is easy to conceal the tablets on the body or in goods being taken across to Bangladesh.
“Drug mules bring yaba from various places in Myanmar through Champhai and Aizwal in Mizoram to Agartala and finally to Bangladesh. Some other routes are also being used,” a BSF officer said.
The border troops, he said, have been asked to increase manual frisking of suspects, re-work their intelligence gathering and interception techniques even as more women personnel are being deployed on routes to search ladies, children and their belongings.
“The BSF has assured its Bangladeshi counterpart that all steps will be taken to crush this menace,” the officer added.
“The routes that were earlier infamous for Phensedyl, cattle and IMFL smuggling are now being used for yaba smuggling,” a security officer said quoting the proceedings of a recent multi-agency intelligence sharing meeting said.
He said the profit margin in the smuggling of this drug is high and hence couriers and narco networks are increasingly “shifting” to it against dealing in other drugs like Phensedyl.
Yaba is sold anywhere from Rs 150-1000 per piece as per quality and demand, they said. In Bangladesh, its price ranges from Taka 300-500 and sometimes more, officials say.
Trans-border smugglers active in Tripura are also “switching” from cannabis to yaba due to the incentives of the illegal trade, they said. PTI