THE large-scale drive against drug substances, by the Rapid Action Battalion since May 4 and by the police since May 18, has continued for about four months now, as New Age reported on Tuesday, without any sign of the arrest of the trade in and abuse of drug substances. Two-hundred and twenty-six people, suspected of being engaged in trade in drug substances, have so far been killed, as part of the drive, in ‘gunfight’ with law enforcers or reported ‘gangland fighting’, as law enforcement personnel prefer to call such incidents. While the drive the way it is carried out has come to be criticised because the death of the suspects, mostly reported to have taken place in custody, constitutes an affront to the rule of law as the suspected offenders are not tried in the court of law, this has hardly been able to cut down on the trade in and abuse of the drug substances. The law enforcers are reported to have so far arrested more than 40,000 suspects, both pedlars and addicts, yet the supply chain is reported to have remained intact, with old pedlars being replaced with new people, and the number of addicts seeking rehabilitation has not increased this time, as has happened in previous cases.
A drive against drug substances should continue, but not the way it is now carried out. All the suspects should be tried in the court of law. While the approach that the law enforcers have taken tramples the rule of law and harms a proper justice dispensation, it creates a scope for people engaged in the trade behind-the-scenes, often reported to be politically and financially powerful, to remain screened behind such extrajudicial killing. But the drive appears to have defeated the purpose of ending drug menace because the government is busy trying to break the supply chain, largely ineffectively through as someone else fills in the gap created in the arrest and death of one pedlar, the government has largely ignored the demand side of the trade. Although there is no specific figure, the drug administration officials estimate that there could be more than six million drug abusers in Bangladesh. But the government runs only four addiction treatment centres offering residential treatment facilities for only 115 people a month, 100 in one centre in Dhaka and five each in three other centres outside the capital, while the 262 private centres can provide treatment for 3,110 a month, at a high cost, in all. There is, obviously, no reason for a decline in the abuse of drug substances unless these issues are shored up properly and effectively.
While the government must continue with its drive against drug substances, shorn of the current approach that involves extrajudicial killing, effectively to break the supply chain of drug substances, the government, under the circumstances, must also attend to the problems of rehabilitation and treatment. Unless the government does this, the demand for drug substances would remain, only the prices of drug substances, as the report further says, would go up.
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