With smugglers continuing to push heroin into India by hiding it in cement consignments sent by train from Pakistan, importers here on Saturday resolved to stop cement imports from the neighbouring country through the rail route. Now the traders, who say that the contraband seizure brings them disrepute, want that cement be imported only by road.
The decision - taken by the traders, mainly including cement importers, who met under the banner of the Confederation of International Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CICCI) here -- has come after another consignment of 3 kg heroin was found in a Pakistani goods train that brought in cement on Friday. It was the third such seizure in cement in two months.
India has been a major importer of Pakistani cement since years, and about 50,000 tonnes of Pak cement reaches here every month. Currently, the Attari road border, too, is used for cement import, but nearly 80% of the cement arrives via train.
A spokesperson of the CICCI said, "The latest seizure of heroin from the Pak goods train carrying cement has once again rattled the business community and brought [to the] fore the inadequacy of security apparatus at the international entry point."
Talking to HT, president of the All India Cement Importers' Association, MPS Chatha, said, "Regular seizure of heroin from the cement coming from Pakistan has brought disrepute to the trade.
The traders from whose consignments such contraband is seized feel very insecure." On pending railway imports, Chatha said, "There are various traders who have already sent payments to the Pakistan cement companies, so those consignments may come in on train for a few days. But no fresh orders will be placed."
The CICCI spokesperson pointed out that the government, which is earning from the cement import Rs 28 as custom duty per bag, plus Rs 12 as railway freight, VAT of Rs 32 along with labour and transport charges, is duty bound to provide security at all levels so that "the innocent traders run their business in peace for the mutual benefits".
Those who attended the meeting included Rajesh Setia, Randip Singh, Om Parkash Arora, Dalip Singh, Jaspal Singh, Pawan Arora, Sanjay Jain and Irvinpreet Singh.
Setia said, "We can't say who is doing this smuggling, but we have decided to stop the cement import through rail just because nobody wants to be at risk."
Amritsar MP Navjot Sidhu had recently raised this issue and also met officials of the customs, BSF and police. Sidhu had demanded scanners at entry points.