A day after Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde visited the Integrated Check Post (ICP) to take stock of trade and security arrangements, Indian customs department recovered 105kg heroin -- worth Rs. 525 crore -- along with 500 live cartridges from a Pakistani goods train.
The seizure, which was made from a wagon no. 66938 of the Pakistani goods train carrying cement, is seen as the biggest ever single haul of heroin.
Although there have been incidents of heroin recovery from cement sent by Pakistan few months ago, this seizure has raised concerns within Indian security agencies.
According to customs officials, the Pakistani goods train bringing cement crossed into India on Sunday and after a halt at Attari it was brought to Amritsar railway station for unloading. The seizure was made when the personnel from the customs department were checking the wagons.
"The Pakistani goods train which brought cement reached Amritsar on Monday and during preliminary checking it was found that seals on one side of wagon no. 66938 were broken. Getting suspicious, our men started to unload the wagon," Vijay Bahadur Singh, deputy commissioner customs, said.
"There were total 488 cement bags of elephant brand and other than these there were four other bags in the wagon. When these four bags were searched 105 packets of heroin and ten boxes with 50 cartridges each were recovered."
When asked whether authorities see an involvement of terrorist outfits, Singh said "we cannot rule it out."
"We are taking up the matter with Pakistani Customs since it is a seizure of great magnitude. Our men have been very alert and this catch is a result of our alertness," Singh added.
The officer said that the cement in the wagon was imported by Mohan Communications and the company will also be quizzed.
On a question, Customs official said, "The wagon is sealed when it arrives in India. The seal was intact when the train was checked in Attari but it was found broken when it reached Amritsar."
This indicated that the seal was broken between Attari and Amritsar, raising questions on the security arrangements between the stretch.
Indian cement importers had stopped trade for 25 days when two seizures of heroin were made from cement in a Pakistan train few months ago. The cement import through train had resumed only after Pakistan assured that the wagons will be sealed using bottle metal.
Recently, the Pakistani customs collector came to Amritsar and assured Indian customs authorities that a close eye is being kept to stop such activities.