Vol. 5 Num 276 Mon. March 07, 2005  
Front Page

Narcotics guardians go into long hibernation
NNCB fails to meet in 2 years; lack of policy guidelines, grafts cripple drug control drive

The National Narcotics Control Board (NNCB), which is supposed to provide policy direction to the Department of Narcotics Control, has apparently become non-functional crippling the anti-narcotics drive across the country.

The high-powered NNCB was supposed to meet quarterly, but did not sit in last two years.

The government enacted laws in 1990 setting up the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) and formed a national Narcotics Control Board (NNCB) in 1998 to provide policy direction towards the intervention programme undertaken by the DNC.

But, all the government's efforts have been proved inadequate and ineffective due to rampant corruption and ignorance of the officials and ineffectiveness of the NNCB for years regarding giving guidelines.

Besides, the inappropriate recruitment policy, insufficient logistics and lack of training for the enforcement agencies are aggravating the problem.

The 18-member NNCB includes 11 cabinet ministers, a secretary, director general of the DNC and five members nominated by the government.

When contacted State Minister for Home Lutfuzzaman Babar, who is also an NNCB member, said, "Why me, you do better contact DNC officials." But the director general of DNC who acts as the member-secretary of the NNCB was not available for comments. There are only 600 employees in DNC to combat the deadly menace of drug abuse in the country. Of them, 90 percent have no training on the subject.

"Like other government offices, they go to the fields soon after their recruitment, even without any knowledge on narcotics," said an official.

The previous home minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury had informed parliament in 2003 that there were 3,700 murders in the country in 2002. "A significant number of these killings were linked to disputes over drug business," he added.

Despite that, the DNC officials are not getting firearms for mysterious reasons.

"An inter-ministerial meeting on June 23, 2003 had approved arms licence for the DNC officials above inspector level considering their risk in chasing drug traders who are well equipped with modern firearms," an official in the DNC said.

"But, we have not yet got the permission," a frustrated official told the news agency.

The DNC officials recovered only 5.5kg heroin and some 25,000 bottles of phensedyl from the capital in 2004, an official said adding the addicts in the city consume a day much more than this recovered amount of one year.

Although there is no survey about the number of drug addicts in the country, officials and media reports estimate the number will not be less than 20 lakh, of them two-thirds are 16-34 age group.

On the identification of drug addicts, Dr Jahir Uddin Khan, director of the DNC, told that his department did nothing about that. "We do work for creating awareness only," he added.

The US State Department in recent report said corruption hampers narcotics interdiction efforts in Bangladesh. The authorities involved in jobs that have an effect on the drug trade assist the smuggling of narcotics and corrupt officials can be found throughout the chain of command, the report said.