Swallowing yaba for a living
It takes around 4 hours to swallow 54 small packets of yaba for 41-year-old Josna Khatun. Each packet contains 50 pills.
"I gobbled those packets with Banana. I was about to vomit when I tried to swallow those. But I managed somehow, thinking of the payment that was promised to me," Josna told this correspondent after a team from the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) arrested her from Dhaka yesterday.
Hailing from Pabna, Josna said she still bears the pain of carrying the yaba pills inside her stomach. The smugglers offered to pay Tk 10,000 for carrying a thousand pills from Cox's Bazar to Dhaka.
We have recovered around 4.66 lakh yaba pills in 2022. The number was 1.80 lakh in 2021. Around 35 to 40 percent of the pills were smuggled inside human stomach, which was around 20 to 25 percent in 2021.
For the successful delivery of the 54 packets, Josna was supposed to get a payment of Tk 25,000. She went to Teknaf from Pabna two days ago after getting in touch with the syndicate.
Inside a house in Teknaf, she gobbled the packets along with four others -- Selina Khatun, 27, Jony Sheikh, 21, Md Hasan, 40, and Babul Hossain, 32.
They reached Dhaka yesterday morning on a passenger bus. The syndicate members in Dhaka were supposed to receive the five from Sayedabad bus stand and take them to a hotel to bring out the tablets from their stomachs.
Based on a tip, the DNC team managed to arrest the five from the bus stand and recovered around 8,000 pills, Mehedi Hasan, assistant director of DNC, told The Daily Star.
"We are now conducting a drive to locate and arrest other members of the syndicate," he said.
Another arrestee Selina said she managed to gobble around 40 packets, which contain around 2,000 pills. She was promised a payment of Tk 20,000.
According to DNC officials, the number of cases of carrying yaba inside a human's stomach has sharply increased in recent times, compared to previous years.
"We have recovered around 4.66 lakh yaba pills in 2022. The number was 1.80 lakh in 2021. Around 35 to 40 percent of the pills were smuggled inside a human stomach, which was around 20 to 25 percent in 2021," Md Rasheduzzaman, deputy director of DNC Dhaka-north, told The Daily Star yesterday.
Earlier, pills were also smuggled inside onions, red chilis, tires, tiffin boxes, shoes, or mobile batteries. However, smugglers and carriers were getting busted following these methods, said the official.
People will die from an "abnormal overdose" of the drug if any of these packets leak or burst inside their stomachs. It can be life-threatening if anyone carries a huge number of yaba pills in this manner.
"Despite the technique being life-threatening, syndicates have managed to get the carriers on board by promising Tk 10,000 to Tk 30,000 per consignment," he said.
On January 5 this year, the DNC (Dhaka north) arrested Shahidul Islam, 30, and his associate Mitu Akter, 29, and recovered around 7,500 pieces of yaba from their stomach.
During interrogation, Shahidul said it was his second time carrying yaba from Cox's Bazar to Dhaka. He has gobbled around 100 packets of yaba -- each containing 50 pills -- with banana.
Mitu gobbled around 55 yaba packets and the duo was supposed to deliver the packets in Rangpur, said DNCC officials.
Asked about the risks of carrying yaba pills in the stomach, Shahidul said he did it for the money and did not know anything about the health risks.
DNC AD Mehedi Hasan said in most cases, the smugglers use a female carrier to smuggle the pills without drawing attention from law enforcers.
There have also been incidents of the carriers dying after the yaba packets burst inside their stomachs.
On September 27, 2020, 31 packets of yaba were recovered from the stomach of dead yaba dealer Abdus Sukur, 38, in Rajshahi. Each packet contained 50 yaba pills.
On April 27, 2019, doctors of Dhaka Medical College Hospital found 11 small packets containing yaba pills, while conducting an autopsy on one Md Julhas, 35, after his sudden death in Dhaka's Kamalapur area.
Dr Shoebur Reza Choudhury, chief consultant of the Central Drug Addiction Centre in Dhaka, told The Daily Star yesterday that people will die for an "abnormal overdose" of the drug if any of these packets leak or burst inside their stomachs.
"Human body has a certain level of tolerance capacity for every medicine. It is life-threatening if anyone carries a huge number of yaba pills inside their stomach," he said.