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Sharp hike in heroin smuggling across Punjab border

Posted on Aug 21, 04:08PM | IANS

Smuggling of heroin along the international India-Pakistan fenced border in Punjab has almost tripled over the last year if seizures made by the Border Security Force (BSF) are an indication.

Against 68 kg of heroin seized from the border belt in 2011, the force has already seized 204 kg of heroin in less than eight months this year, a senior BSF official disclosed. It is amongst the most expensive drugs in the international market and the haul this year is estimated at nearly Rs.1,000 crore.

In the latest seizure last week in the Ferozepur sector of Punjab, the BSF recovered seven packets containing seven kg of heroin. Along with this, the BSF also recovered fake Indian currency notes (FICN) worth Rs.6 lakh.

"We have recovered over 200 kg of heroin in Punjab this year itself," BSF's Punjab frontier inspector general Aditya Mishra said.

BSF officials, alarmed by the figures, attribute the bigger haul to greater vigil.

In 2008 the BSF seized 100 kg, the next year the seizure had gone up to 120 kg and in 2010 the figure was 115 kg before dipping to 68 kg in 2011.

Punjab shares a 553-km-long barbed wire fenced international border with Pakistan.

"Despite the electrified fence, erected inside Indian territory, and strict 24x7 security, smugglers from both sides of the border are willing to risk it out. Some Pakistani smugglers have also been killed in recent years but the drugs smuggling continues," a BSF official told IANS here.

Besides the BSF, other central and state government agencies are involved in tracking and seizing drugs being smuggled through the international border in Punjab. These include the centre's Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and customs and the state special operations cell (SOC).

The state cell had recovered over 66 kg of heroin in Punjab last year. This time it has recovered over 60 kg in the first few months.

"Smugglers use various modes to get the drugs across the international border. In recent times, they have been hiding packets of heroin in fields across the fence, throwing them across the fence or hiding them in cement bags coming on the goods' train," the BSF official said.

Last month, customs officials recovered 11 kg of heroin from cement bags being imported to India from Pakistan. The cement consignment was coming on a goods train. Customs officials have recovered heroin consignments from cement bags in two instances.

The recovery of heroin in cement bags led to a scare among traders who import the cement from Pakistan.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)