Youths in the age group 18 to 35 years are more vulnerable to drug abuse in Jhapa.

According to the data, 307 people were apprehended for drugs abuse in the fiscal 2020-21. Of them, 261 (85 per cent) belonged to the above mentioned age group.

District Police Office, Jhapa said most of the accused were either secondary level students or those pursuing higher academic degrees. As they fell trap into addiction, their academic performance was found to be eroded.

The district shares its border with West Bengal of India to the east and with Bihar state to the south.

The open border system with India is blamed for the flourishing of an illegal market of narcotic drugs in the district as smugglers take undue benefits of the open border to reap benefits from their business. Statistics show that the rates of drug smuggling did not slow down during the COVID-19 lockdown as well.

Of those arrested in the last fiscal, eight per cent were Indian nationals, said police. A total of 195 cases of drug smuggling were registered in the district in the last fiscal while the figure was 118 in the previous year. While analysing the registered cases and statements of detainees, it has been found that drug smuggling is used as a means of making a quick buck.

As per the statement, 42 per cent of those arrested in the last fiscal said they were involved in the illegal trade for monetary gains and 26 per cent narrated the same to the police during interrogation in the previous fiscal. Likewise, 38 per cent of those arrested in last fiscal said the purpose of smuggling was for self- use while 20 per cent denied to disclose their intentions.

Indian town Pani Tanki, that shares its border with Kakarvitta, the major transit point in the eastern Nepal, has been used as one of the major points for trans-border supplies of Narcotic drugs. When the Kakarvitta checkpoint was shut during the COVID-19 lockdown, the Nepal-India border points in north Bahundangi and south Jamirgadhi were used as alternative routes for drug trafficking.

According to police, some persons involved in drug trafficking cited that they were medically prescribed for the use of drugs they were possessing at the times of arrests.

Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, police used to launch a campaign against drug abuse targeting schools. However, it has not been able to resume the camping as COVID-19 still continues to pose a grave threat to the public health.

A version of this article appears in the print on August 21 2021, of The Himalayan Times.