Vol. 5 Num 277 Tue. March 08, 2005  

Inaction on narcotics
No wonder the problem is getting worse
We are shocked to learn that the National Narcotics Control Board (NNCB) the apex body which is supposed to provide policy direction to the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) has not even convened in the past two years. This low priority given to fighting drug addiction and drug-related crime is reflected in the scant progress made by the authorities in their quest to stamp out the scourge of drugs.

The NNCB is a high-powered group, comprising, among others, eleven cabinet ministers and a secretary to the government, but it is clear that drug interdiction has not been a top concern of theirs of late. This inaction on the part of the NNCB has led to problems in the DNC itself which is both undermanned and under-funded.

The DNC has only 600 employees all over the country, of whom roughly 90 per cent do not have any specific training or background in the field. DNC officials also complain that they are denied much needed equipment, specially arms, needed to aggressively pursue drug traders, many of whom are extremely dangerous and well-armed themselves. In addition, in the absence of any kind of guideline or direction set forth by the NNCB, the DNC suffers from corruption, incompetence, and inefficiency.

Drugs are a serious problem in this country. A significant number of murders, assaults, and robberies are linked to the clandestine drug trade. It is estimated that there are over two million addicts in the country and the annual amount of narcotics seized is less than the amount consumed in Dhaka city in one day. The DNC has made some headway in programmes designed to create awareness of the problem, but this is not nearly enough.

It is clear that direction and commitment from the top is what is needed. The NNCB must meet as soon as practicable to send the message that it takes its duties seriously, and it must take the lead in providing direction and ensure that the necessary funding and personnel are available so that the DNC is able to do its job properly.