Dhaka,  Saturday
25 May 2024

From Cox’s Bazar with yaba

Dhaka-bound trains become the carrier for 73 top drug traffickers

Imran Ali, Dhaka

Published: 08:15, 15 May 2024

From Cox’s Bazar with yaba

Photo: Messenger

The smuggling of yaba, the notorious methamphetamine tablet, has alarmingly infiltrated the Dhaka-bound trains from Cox's Bazar. While traffickers have previously exploited buses, cargo trucks, and even airplanes as transportation channels, they have now shifted their focus to trains as a preferred mode of illicit conveyance. 

The situation grows more concerning as local sources indicate that not only are traffickers posing as passengers carrying yaba, but even staff members involved in train operations are being co-opted into the transportation network in exchange for substantial sums of money. Notably, the top 75 listed traffickers from the notorious hubs of Teknaf and Ukhiya are allegedly exploiting these trains as a conduit to funnel yaba into Dhaka since the launch of this rail service.

Due to the gravity of the yaba smuggling situation, the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) has decided to promptly install metal detectors at railway stations to screen for drugs.

This issue was recently discussed in a meeting at the Ministry of Home Affairs. Subsequently, the DNC and other law enforcement agencies were instructed to increase their vigilance around trains.

Tanvir Momtaz, Director (Operations) of the DNC, told the Daily Messenger, “The matter of smuggling yaba using trains has come to our attention. The issue was raised in a recent meeting at the Ministry of Home Affairs, and instructions were given to increase monitoring. Both the DNC and other law enforcement agencies are actively working on this.”

He said, “Previously, drug seizures were more common in buses or other vehicles. However, it is now evident that the traffickers have changed their route and chosen trains.”

He further added, “We will use metal detectors at stations to identify drugs. Since physically searching the luggage of many passengers simultaneously is not possible, we will also use machines that can detect if someone is carrying drugs from a distance. We will start working on this promptly.”

According to sources, there was no direct rail connection between Cox's Bazar and the rest of Bangladesh previously. Due to tourist demand for direct train services to this renowned destination, and considering the overall situation, Bangladesh Railway authorities established direct train connectivity with Cox's Bazar on December 1, 2023, launching the Cox's Bazar Express train. This train has been running continuously since then and is highly popular, with all seats occupied. Consequently, Bangladesh Railway started operating another non-stop intercity train, Parjotak Express, on the Dhaka-Cox's Bazar route from January 10.

Within five months of launching, the trains gained immense popularity. However, due to the recent launch and large number of passengers, proper monitoring has been lacking.

Local sources claim drug traffickers are exploiting this, turning these popular trains into a safe yaba smuggling route. Hundreds of thousands of yaba pills are being transported to Dhaka via these trains. In many cases, major traffickers are using train staff, similar to how bus helpers and drivers are used, to safely transport yaba to Dhaka. 

Sources indicate that after the train launch, drug traffickers who had surrendered and were released from prison have re-engaged in yaba smuggling, transporting large quantities to Dhaka via these trains. In many instances, not only regular individuals but also staff members are being used as carriers to evade law enforcement.

It is known that in the recent Ministry of Home Affairs list regarding drug traffickers, 1,151 individuals from Cox's Bazar district were named, of which 912 were from Teknaf. Among the top 73 yaba traffickers, 65 were from Teknaf. These 73 individuals have become more active than ever, using trains for yaba smuggling.

Regarding this, Commander Arafat Islam, Director of RAB's Legal and Media Wing, told the Daily Messenger, “Our intelligence personnel are working everywhere. Our Cox's Bazar RAB-15 is vigilant about this. We are working on it.”

Shakil Ahmed, Additional Police Super of Cox's Bazar District Police, told the Daily Messenger, “We are always vigilant. But we have no engagement inside trains; rather this is the Railway Police's job. Like other agencies, we are also working on overall drug control.”

He added, “This is a much-anticipated new train route and station. And since this is a tourist area, checking all luggage is impossible. Scanners need to be installed at the station. If installed, any illegal items will be detected, making the situation easier to handle. Nevertheless, we are working utilising our own sources and technology.”