In newly “saffronised” Tripura, Bishalgarh and Sonamura in Sepahijala district have transformed as the nerve centre of ecstasy drugs smuggling.
In a joint operation, the BSF and Customs (Preventive) on Monday seized 17,000 number of Yaba, an ecstasy drug, commonly known as the madness drug in Southeast Asia.
Acting on a tip-off, the team seized the consignment of the ecstasy drugs from the house one Maful Miah in Durgapur village near Sonamura in Sepahijala district. The village is close to the Bangladesh border.
This was the third largest seizure of Yaba tablets in 2019 in Tripura, and the consignment was estimated to cost Rs 85 lakhs in the international market.
On April 6, the BSF had seized 28,000 Yaba tablets worth Rs 1.40 crore from the house of one Bilal Miah near Bishalgarh in Sepahijala district. Even on January 24 last, 22,000 Yaba tablets were seized in Tripura.
Though Maful Miah managed to give a slip to the raiding team, the enforcement agencies, from prima facie investigations, are convinced that he has been an important link of an international smuggling network.
The smuggling network, which runs its production hub in the Wa State of Myanmar, has established a strong base in Sepahijala district of Tripura through Bangladesh.
The “WY” marks on the tablets made it clear that the consignment originated from the Wa State of Myanmar. The Bangladesh connection was established with the seizure of Bangladeshi Taka along with the drugs consignment.
There is high demand of Yaba in Bangladesh as well. Youths in Bangladesh consider consumption of the ecstasy drug as a snobby trend. It is commonly known in Bangladesh as “Pill”, “Laal”, “Baba”, “Chakka”, “Guti” and “Bori”.
Generally, Rohingya refugees are hired by the Myanmarese drug dealers to smuggle Yaba from Myanmar into Bangladesh. Since 2016, more than 500 Rohingyas were arrested on Yaba smuggling charges, and up to $60 million worth of the ecstasy were seized by the Bangladeshi authorities.
The investigations have also revealed that the ecstasy drugs were smuggled in through Bangladesh for its transshipment to New Delhi and South India.
The ecstasy drugs, which are basically stimulants, are in high demand in New Delhi and other metro cities in India, the traditional markets for Cocaine.
The smugglers are now making use of the direct train connectivity of Agartala with New Delhi and Bengaluru. The prestigious Rajdhani Express connects Agartala with New Delhi; the Humsafar Express has established rail connectivity between Tripura and Bengaluru.
In addition to the ecstasy drugs, the Sepahijala district in Tripura has also emerged as the new hub of contraband ganja production and smuggling.
So far, Manipur was the main producers of ganja, and consignments of dried and compressed blocks were regularly being transshipped to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Ganja produced in northeast is in high demand in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. But, because of stringent enforcement during the last couple of years, the smugglers have now found Tripura as new hub.
During the last three years, sleuths of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and Customs (Preventive) have seized huge consignments of ganja produced in Tripura. Investigations revealed that all consignments of ganja seized originated from Bishalgarh in Sepahijala district.
As the entire Sepahijala area is covered with thick vegetation and rubber plantation, the ganja smugglers have invested on the local villagers to grow cannabis deep inside the jungles, and remain unnoticed.
The new Tripura operations of the ganja smuggling network have twin advantages for the smugglers. A large portion of the produce is smuggled to Bangladesh as there is huge demand of the contraband.
Secondly, as the network is fresh, probability of interceptions by the enforcement agencies will be relatively less.