23-cr truck scanner a dud, says Attari customs officials

Updated on Nov 28, 2019 12:23 AM IST
The scanner was installed on demand to detect contraband such as drugs, gold and weapons
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Hindustan Times, Amritsar | ByAnil Sharma

Customs officials have expressed dissatisfaction with the working of full body truck scanner (FBTSS) installed at the integrated check post (ICP) Attari, which facilitates India’s trade with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Officials said the scanner, during its trial this week, did not detect the suspected items.

“During the scanner’s trial, it did not detect any suspected item concealed in the trucks. Even the salt, which was hidden in the truck laden with onions, was not detected. It is useless as it can’t detect any suspected item,” said a senior customs official, who didn’t wish to be named. He further said that they would write to inform the government about the faulty scanner.

The truck scanner project, at the cost of Rs23 crore, was announced in March 2017, by then Union minister of state for home affairs, Kiran Rijiju. Of the five truck scanners, imported from US, the first one has been installed at the ICP to scan concealed heroin, other drugs and weapons from the neighboring country.

Since the foundation stone of the ICP was laid in 2010, there has been a demand for a scanner as manual checking of vehicles with the help of sniffer dogs is not 100% error free, and has sometimes led to clearing of contraband.

Land Port Authority of India (LPAI), which was responsible for installing the machines, however, said their trial was successful. “Besides completing the trial, we have also trained the staff which has been deployed to operate the scanner,” said LPAI’s Attari manager Sukhdev Singh.

He said the project was almost complete and they were awaiting a certification of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) for its operation. “The scanner emits high radiation. Once the clearance is given by AERB, the scanner will be operational.”

Currently, trade with Pakistan is at a standstill since the New Delhi’s action of revoking the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. Trade with Afghanistan has been going on. On Tuesday, 27 trucks imported goods from Afghanistan.

The project, which commenced in March 2018, has so far missed five deadlines—October 2018, December 2018, May 2019, June 2019 and August 2019. In July, the special cell of Delhi police had seized 50kg heroin evaluated at 200 crore from a cold storage located in Haryana’s Sonipat. The consignment had reportedly entered India through Attari ICP. In June, customs had seized 532kg of heroin and 52kg of mixed narcotics concealed in the consignment of rock salt imported from Pakistan. The recent recoveries had also raised a question over the delay in installing the scanner.

Traders have also been suspecting that the project was deliberately being delayed. “It has been more than seven years since we first demanded the scanner. There is something fishy about the way it is being delayed,” said Anil Mehra, president, federation of karyana and dry fruit commercial association.

The Centre had sanctioned five FBTS for Attari–Wagha in Punjab, Poonch–Chakkandabad and Uri–Salamabad in Jammu & Kashmir on the India-Pakistan border, Petrapole in Kolkata at India–Bangladesh border and Raxaul in Bihar on India–Nepal border. The Attari border is the first to have installed the scanner in India.

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