February Edition, Statewide, NET Bureau, Pinaki Das
Despite a ban on movement of codeine based cough syrups, Tripura, surrounded by Bangladesh from nearly all sides, is among the preferred state by smugglers to illegally send it across the fence to the neighbouring country. Northeast Today reports on what could be a pan national smuggling operation.
Seizure of Bangladesh bound banned contraband bottles by BSF mostly in and around capital Agartala is a regular event and this year already within the first ten days two such incidents of seizures where huge quantity of contraband bottles were recovered.
During 2016, the Border Security Force (BSF) seized contraband of cough syrup bottles amounting to around six crores. The amount may seem small but when imagined in the number of bottles it is huge. The seizure of large number of contraband, considered to be the tip of a large iceberg, has raised severe questions on the vigilance deployed across our national highways. These consignments generally cross four to five states by surface transport before entering Tripura and it is only the BSF which is successful in stopping the smuggling.
In the first seizure this year, the BSF in a joint operation with Tripura police found banned cough syrup bottles worth Rs 25 lakh hidden in a warehouse in Indranagar area of capital Agartala. Two persons have been arrested in connection to the seizure. The contraband consisting of banned Phensedyle and Corex bottles were found hidden in packets of shoes and umbrellas in the storehouse. Superintendent of police (SP) of West Tripura district, Abhijit Saptarshi said, “A joint team of Gokulnagar BSF and our West district Tripura police conducted a raid at Indranagar under NCC (New Capital Complex) PS in Agartala. It was found that the criminals have hidden phensedyl and codex bottles inside boxes of shoes and umbrellas. So far we have managed to recover 13,000 bottles of Phensedyle, whose market value will be more than 25 lakhs. In that connection we have arrested two persons, one is Narayan Kumar who is the driver of the vehicle registered in Delhi and he is from UP. The other one is the manager of the godown Apu Chakraborty. We are registering a specific case.”
According to him the consignment was meant for being smuggled out to Bangladesh. “Definitely it must be planned for sending across the border but fortunately before it could pass the border we were able to apprehend the criminals and recover 13,000 bottles.”
Within one week of the incident BSF has yet again seized 29,700 bottles of Phensedyle and Eskul Cough Syrup having market value of about Rs 28 lakh hidden under onion sacks brought in a truck with Nagaland registration. The owner and driver of the truck Haradhan Pawanbashi Datta, a resident of Nagpur, Maharashtra was apprehended and according to him the consignment was loaded from Indore in Madhya Pradesh and was to be unloaded in the Maharajganja Bazar, the main market of Agartala.
These incidents of smuggling are a matter of concern for the state authority. In March 2016, the Health Ministry, ensuring safety and efficacy of medicines had banned around 350 fixed dose combination (FDC) drugs that were widely available in the market. These medicines include FDCs based on codeine, used in popular cough syrups like Phensedyl and Corex. The government has decided to prohibit manufacturing and sale of these medicines because they were found to be ‘irrational’ without any therapeutic efficacy and use. Also, in some cases, there were concerns about misuse of such medicines considered unsafe for mass consumption and moreover, Bangladesh has also been regularly pressing India for banning these cough syrups. These incidents have brought to the notice of the authority that despite the ban there are large rackets running fake companies which are continuing the production of the contrabands and transporting them to northeastern bordering state including Tripura for sending across the border.
Recently, Director General of Tripura Police K Nagaraj during the annual press conference could not explain that how in spite of police checking in the national highway these large vehicles could reach Tripura along with the banned medicines and it was only the BSF that has been sometime successful in apprehending a few. The DGP had to face the wrath of many journalists as it was viewed that there is a serious failure of intelligence or that may be a nexus between police and those involved in smuggling. They also expressed their concern on the rising incidents of clashes between the police and the illegal growers of marijuana from various parts of West Tripura and Sepahijala district.
Though the average price of a bottle of contraband like Phensedyle is less than Rs 100, each bottle in Bangladesh fetches between Taka 600 to 700 which is used as substitute to liquor. Four Northeastern states – Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Assam – share a 1,880-km border with Bangladesh, some of it unfenced and running through dense forests, making it porous and vulnerable.
Source: northest today