Dhubri, June 3: Youths in Bangladesh are voraciously consuming cough syrup as an easy substitute to liquor, making the humble medicine an expensive contraband commodity that regularly takes the Dhubri route to sneak into the neighbouring country.
Cough syrup now involves a multi-crore-rupee illegal trade racket and an inter-state and international network of smugglers.
In fact, it is emerging as the next big catch for smugglers, after cattle and hen.
On May 22, syrup bottles valued at Rs 40 lakh were seized by the Dhubri customs department.
A total of 43,150 bottles of cough syrup were concealed under 150 bags of whole gram.
The driver and handyman of the truck, Ikaul Hoque and Ailur Rahman, from Coochbehar district of Bengal, were also arrested.
However, both were later released on a personal bond for lack of evidence of connivance in the trade.
A source in the Dhubri customs department said they seized 30,000 bottles of cough syrup valued at Rs 25.97 lakh concealed under onion bags on August 21 last year while 26,500 bottles, costing Rs 24.16 lakh, and hidden under maize bags, were seized on October 5.
Besides, the BSF seized 32,700 bottles of cough syrup valued at Rs 23.54 lakh on the Bangladesh border in Dhubri last year.
The trade thrives on two sets of network — one that brings the cough syrup bottles and dumps them in different places of Dhubri district and smuggles it to Bangladesh and the other network that takes the consignment to the other states of the Northeast sharing their border with Bangladesh.
The network mainly stretches over Bihar, Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura. The route is carefully chalked out.
“Suppose a truck is loaded with cough syrup in Purnea of Bihar, a driver and his handyman take the truck till Siliguri. Another set of driver and handyman is then given the assignment to take the truck from Siliguri to Srirampur or Chagolia inter-state gate. From there, another pair of driver and handyman is hired to take the truck further down,” a source said.
Each time a new driver takes over, the numberplate and the vehicle’s papers are changed.
This plan ensures that the driver remains clueless about the original owner of the consignment and consequently would be able to reveal little to the police if caught.
Dhubri and Karimganj in Assam, Dawki and Mahendraganj in Meghalaya and Agartala in Tripura are the primary areas from where consignments are sold to drug peddlers of Bangladesh.
Apart from several registered dealers, manufacturing companies are also suspected to be involved in the racket.
Dhubri district drug inspector Biswajit Talukdar said several scheduled drugs, particularly cough syrups, are taken to various parts the Northeast without papers and sold without a doctor’s prescription.
“We are taking strong action against selling this scheduled drug without prescription,” Talukdar added.
A police source said 23 drug peddlers were arrested from various parts of Dhubri district since January 2009 to April 2010.