The cargo aircraft was Air India’s. It had been chartered by India Post. Flight IC-7901 carrying letters and parcels took off from Imphal for Kolkata via Agartala on Tuesday afternoon.
At Agartala, acting on a tipoff, a team of customs officials raided the aircraft. They seized 178 parcels, all of which had been booked by Speedpost at Imphal. “They were found to contain raw leather, animal skins, ganja, foreign cigarettes, pirated Chinese DVDs and Chinese shoes — all smuggled or prohibited items,” said Sujata Srijesh, deputy commissioner, customs, Agartala.
An audacious and well organised smuggling racket, using entirely government owned channels, which are generally regarded as completely above board, has been busted, feel customs officials. Most of the packets seized came from Moreh on the Indo-Myanmar border and a well known smuggling haven — yet postal department officials in Imphal never bothered to check their contents. “As per postal laws we are not supposed to check the contents of packets,” a postal employee in Imphal told Hindustan Times .
The names and addresses on some of the packets make amazing reading. A number of them had been sent to ‘A. Tamang, Airport Gate No 1’ and ‘S. Chakraborty, Airport Gate No 2’. “Obviously the addresses are fake,” said Srijesh. But nobody questioned them.
Following the seizure, a full-scale blame game has begun. Some of the postal employees point fingers at Air India. “It is Air India that does the checking of the packets at the airport. The cargo cannot be loaded unless the airline staff paste a green sticker on it,” said Md Riyajuddin, in charge of India Post cargo service at Imphal.
"The aircraft in question was wet-leased to the postal department. We only provide the crew and we are responsible for maintenance. Nothing more,” an Air India spokesman in Kolkata retorted. The postal department, in turn, has ordered a high level enquiry.