Seizure of banned cough syrup Phensedyl, Yaba tablets remain high at India-B’desh border

With the recovery of 855 bottles of cough syrup Phensedyl from a Bangladeshi national on the India- Bangladesh border on February 21, the smuggling of this banned cough syrup and Yaba Tablets from Myanmar to Southeast Asia remain a challenge for the Border Security Force.

The BSF officials said that the arrested Bangladeshi national was allegedly involved in smuggling of the narcotic over the past few days in the region.

The cough syrup being smuggled to Bangladesh is used as a substitute for liquor which is strictly prohibited in the neighbouring country.

South Bengal Frontier of the BSF had seized about 1,000 bottles of Phensedyl in the border areas in the first week of January while in 2021 they seized around 1.64 lakh bottles of the cough syrup.

Earlier, the BSF had seized 597 bottles of the prohibited cough syrup Phensedyl from the border area under South Garo Hills district of Meghalaya on February 16. And on February 14 the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel arrested two youths for allegedly smuggling it near the Hakimpur Border Out Post in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal.

The two arrested youths were to be paid Rs 500 for transporting 60 bottles of Phensedyl which was recovered from their possession.

Phensedyl is a codeine-based cough syrup, which is banned in Bangladesh. It is consumed by youngsters in large quantities against the recommended small dose to get a high.

Yaba, a drug in the tablet form, is a combination of a number of stimulants. The two main substances that make up the drug are caffeine and methamphetamine, otherwise known as crystal meth.

Those users who take it most commonly smoke the drug off tinfoil, though it can be ingested orally or crushed and snorted.

Thailand is one of the largest distributors of Yaba and Myanmar is one of the biggest producers of it. Though it remains popular mainly in Southeast Asia, the drug has made its way to the US also.

When the government authorities in Thailand and Myanmar get strict on the smuggling, the smugglers take the routes in the Northeastern states like Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram to get their consignment routed to the Southeast Asian countries, the BSF official said.

“The BSF needs to coordinate with other law enforcing agencies to prevent the smuggling of Phensedyl not at the borders but also in the states through which the substance passes, and especially in the states where these cough syrups are manufactured,” BSF Inspector General B.N. Singh (Retd) told IANS.

Singh, who was posted in Meghalaya and Tripura as Commandant and IG, further said that due to liquor prohibition in Bangladesh this cough syrup is widely consumed by the Bangladeshi nationals, especially the youths. One bottle of the Phensedyl costing around Rs 80 in India is sold for Rs 350 or 400, he further said, adding that it suits both the manufacturers and smuggles because of the high profit margin.

There has been a spurt of smuggling of this cough syrup and narcotics in the recent past on the India-Bangladesh border in West Bengal and Meghalaya, however, the BSF officials deny this and said these seizures are because of high level of vigilance at border and nearby areas.

The officials also said that the human intelligence network at the border areas plays an important role and the officials posted at borders are always encouraged to develop human intelligence.

Former BSF Inspector General also said that despite border fencing on the India- Bangladesh border, there are gaps in certain pockets from where these narcotics are smuggled, these gaps have to be filled and the security forces must do rigorous checks at the Integrated Check Posts along the borders.

Talking about the smuggling of the Yaba tablets, Singh said that earlier it was only meant for Bangladesh and some of the Southeast Asian countries and it was routed through the Northeastern states like Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur as transit route, but of late, the some areas of these Indian states have also became the consumer of these tablets. This is an alarming situation and matter of concern for these states, he added.

Retired BSF IG B.N. Singh also suggested that a human intelligence network has to be enhanced in these areas to keep an eye on the smugglers who take the consignments of narcotics through the village and unconventional routes to reach Bangladesh. Therefore, and a proper coordination mechanism has to be built with the concerned state police, and other law enforcing agencies to prevent the smuggling of narcotics, he added.

The Border Guard Bangladesh and other enforcement agencies of Bangladesh should also exchange information on the movements of the smugglers with the Indian agencies, Singh further said.

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