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New on Nepal border: Smuggling of rice

Smuggling syndicates that have traditionally traded in narcotics and arms, are now carrying foodgrains from India into Nepal, reports Jatin Gandhi.
Hindustan Times | By Jatin Gandhi, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 08, 2008 02:48 AM IST

Call this a sign of our times. Soaring prices and the gathering subcontinental food crisis have introduced a new commodity in the illegal trade along the India-Nepal border. Smuggling syndicates that have traditionally traded in narcotics and arms and ammunition, are now carrying huge quantities of foodgrains from India into Nepal.

On May 30, the Sashatra Seema Bal (SSB), the border police force that guards the Indian side of the 1,751-km, highly porous border, intercepted five tractors with trolleys filled with more than 16 tonnes of rice at the border in Raxaul in Bihar’s East Champaran district.

During raids at several places along the border that night, the SSB seized another 6 tonnes of wheat and paddy.
“Field intelligence showed that large amounts of foodgrains were being smuggled out since January this year,” a top SSB officer told Hindustan Times.

In April, the SSB launched a drive against the smugglers, which has since resulted in the seizure of scores of tonnes of wheat and paddy. “Week after week, we’ve seized massive quantities of foodgrains,” the officer said.

Authorities say it is difficult to put an exact number to the volume of foodgrains being smuggled from India to Nepal, but estimate it could run into several hundred tonnes a month. “The border is porous and there are no restrictions on crossing over from either side. We expect the extent of smuggling to be quite large,” sources said.

The Agriculture Ministry’s Department of Food and Public Distribution is blissfully unaware of the problem. When asked about the smuggling, Akhilesh Prasad Singh, Minister of State responsible for the department, said: “I’ll ask police and SSB for complete details and get a report prepared. We will take it up with the Home Ministry. It is a serious matter.”

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