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Friday, Dec 13, 2019

Assam rifles crack down on illegal trade on Indo-Myanmar border

Zokhawthar, a border village in Champhai which is also a customs and immigration checkpost, is one of the biggest trading centres in Mizoram.

india Updated: Sep 25, 2019 16:18 IST
Sadiq Naqvi
Sadiq Naqvi
Hindustan Times, Mizoram
Officials say that illegal cross-border trade is not restricted to Zokhawthar but takes place at various other places along the porous, more than 400-kilometer long border too.
Officials say that illegal cross-border trade is not restricted to Zokhawthar but takes place at various other places along the porous, more than 400-kilometer long border too.(PTI image)
         

In a clampdown on illegal trade with Myanmar following directives from the Centre, the Assam Rifles have apprehended 40 trucks in Mizoram since September 18, of which some were ferrying highly subsidized urea, senior Assam Rifles officials said.

“We apprehended 10 trucks carrying areca nuts and two carrying urea on Monday,” said an official on condition of anonymity. Last week, 28 trucks of areca nuts plying from the Myanmar border town of Champhai towards Mizoram state capital Aizawl were were apprehended and seized by Assam Rifles and Customs officials jointly.

The officials attributed the renewed effort to crack down on illegal trade to a recent directive from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) in New Delhi, which was issued after security agencies reported widespread illegal trade with Myanmar. A mandate was given to Assam Rifles to take action, another senior official of the organization said, on condition of anonymity.

Zokhawthar, a border village in Champhai which is also a customs and immigration checkpost, is one of the biggest trading centres in Mizoram.

Assam Rifle officials manning the state’s border with Myanmar claimed that government-subsidized urea from other states like Manipur, too, is being illegally transported to Myanmar via Zokhawthar and other porous parts of the unfenced border.

“We presume most urea which goes illegally to Myanmar is being used for agricultural purposes and also for the manufracture of plastics,” said an official.

Items being smuggled in the other direction, that is into India, include areca nuts from Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia and black pepper, that are sometimes loaded on to the same trucks as the urea and smuggled into India through Myanmar. Officials say that these commodities like the Areca nuts fetch five times their original price in India.

Officials say that illegal cross-border trade is not restricted to Zokhawthar but takes place at various other places along the porous, more than 400-kilometer long border too.

Gold, weapons, tiger skin, rhino horn and drugs like heroin and yaba tablets are among the other prohibited items that are sent across the border.

In August, three AK-57 series rifles were seized by the Assam Rifles and Mizoram Police in Champhai. More than 7,00,000 methamphetamine or yaba tablets have been seized in the state in 2019, according to official records. “We are short staffed and therefore find it difficult to check this smuggling,” a senior customs official in Champhai said.

“Luckily, the local demand for Yaba is virtually non-existent,” says Peter Zohmingthanga, a senior official with Mizoram’s Excise and Narcotics Department “But Bangladesh authorities are worried about the burgeoning consumption of the drug among youth there. Mizoram serves as one of the transit routes for this drug coming from Myanmar.”

Assam Rifles officials claim that a clampdown on the illegal trade in permitted but undeclared items will also bring down drug and weapons smuggling across the border.

“Inputs indicate that in many cases, weapons, drugs and other prohibited items are brought hidden in the same trucks,” said the second Assam Rifles official.