Barricades placed by Howrah Police at identified coronavirus hotspots on day eighteen of the 21-day nationwide lockdown, at Foreshore Road in Howrah, West Bengal on Saturday.(PTI File Photo)
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Coronavirus update: In Bengal, smuggling through Bangladesh border drops drastically amid Covid-19 lockdown

For decades, the porous Indo-Bangladesh border in West Bengal has been notorious for smuggling and infiltration, which has also been a burning political issue in the state.
By Press Trust of India | Kolkata
UPDATED ON APR 12, 2020 01:40 PM IST

The Covid-19 outbreak has impacted lives of everyone including contraband operators as smuggling of cattle, fake Indian currency notes (FICN) and marijuana as well as infiltration through the Indo-Bangladesh border in the West Bengal sector has dropped to an all-time low in the past few weeks, BSF officials said.

For decades, the porous Indo-Bangladesh border in West Bengal has been notorious for smuggling and infiltration, which has also been a burning political issue in the state.

“We have kept up the vigil. There has been no relaxation in that aspect. But in the South Bengal frontier region, smuggling, FICN trade, and infiltration have reached a rock bottom level. It’s negligible,” BSF IG South Bengal Frontier YB Khurania told PTI.

The illegal trade of FICN, gold, and marijuana has taken a hit in south Bengal due to the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown.

“The FICN trade mostly takes place at the Rajshahi sector of the Indo-Bangla border. The notes that they are throwing at this side of the fence now are of very poor quality - basically just photocopies. We can safely say the high-quality FICN trade has taken a huge hit,” another senior BSF official of Bengal frontier said.

The BSF gives credit for this success to increased vigil at the border and sealing of the border with Bangladesh.

“Smugglers and FICN couriers are not able to come out of their home. There has been a sense of fear due to the Covid-19 pandemic, plus there has been an increase in patrolling in the porous region,” the BSF official said.

Bangladesh and West Bengal share about 2,216.7 km of border. Out of the 915 km of border in the South Bengal frontier, only 371 km is fenced.

The official said infiltration from Bangladesh had already come down after passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act in December last year and apprehensions about a pan-India NRC. The outbreak of Covid-19 has added to it and infiltration is at an all-time low, he said.

Only 13 Bangladeshis have been captured between March 25 when the lockdown was announced, and April 10, the official said.

During the same period in 2018 and 2019, the figures were 76 and 33, he said.

In terms of cattle smuggling too, there has been a significant success.

“The number of cattle apprehended during this period this year is just 45. During the similar period last year, the number was around 1,700. We have broken the backbone of cattle smuggling in the past one year,” the BSF official said.

Seizure of marijuana has also decreased during this period over the years. The border guards seized 154.5 kg in 2018, 41 kg in 2019 and 35 kg in this year.

The picture is also similar in the North Bengal Frontier of BSF where both infiltration and smuggling are also at an all-time low.

Keeping in mind the protection of its troopers in Covid-19 time, the BSF has come up with standard operating procedures while dealing with smugglers and infiltrators.

“There are proper guidelines for troopers on the field while dealing with miscreants. They have been provided with protective gear including masks, gloves and suits,” a BSF official said.

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