In Punjab, heroin smuggling on a new high!

imagesHeroin smuggling along the international border in Punjab has hit a new high. Border Security Force (BSF) troopers have recovered nearly 145 kg of the contraband from the state’s border belt adjoining Pakistan in less than four months of this year. The drug consignment is worth over $130 million (Rs 725 crore in Indian currency) in the international market.

In just three recent seizures, the BSF has recovered over 70 kg of heroin in the Amritsar and Ferozepur sectors. In these incidents, the smugglers fired at the BSF troopers, who retaliated.

While 52 kg heroin was recovered Wednesday, 18 kg was recovered Tuesday. The 18 kg was recovered in the Ferozepur sector.

“The seizures are the result of our strengthened efforts for border domination, especially to check smuggling. These reveal that the smugglers are quite active in the area,” Aditya Mishra, BSF Inspector General for the Punjab frontier said.

The BSF is likely to take up the matter with its Pakistani counterpart – Pakistan Rangers – at their next meeting, BSF officers said.

In most of the recent incidents, the BSF troopers have also recovered fake Indian currency notes (FICN) worth over Rs 48 lakh (US$90,000) from the border belt. Other seizures include weapons and ammunition used by the smugglers.

The BSF was also successful in heroin seizures in 2012, which saw one of the highest hauls in recent years – nearly 290 kg valued at over US$267 mn (Rs 1,450 crore) in the international market.

In 2008, the BSF seized over 100 kg of heroin, in 2009 about 120 kg, in 2010 about 115 kg and in 2011 only around 68 kg.

Besides the BSF, other central and state government agencies are involved in tracking and seizing drugs being smuggled through the international border. These include the central government’s Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and customs and the Punjab Police special operations cell (SOC).

In February this year, officials of the customs department burnt 445 kg of heroin seized in recent years. The heroin was worth US$410 mn (Rs 2,225 crore).

In 2012, customs officials seized over 135 kg of heroin being smuggled in cement bags being imported from Pakistan through the India-Pakistan goods train in just four months (July-Oct). The seizure was valued at over US$124 mn (Rs 675 crore) in the international market.

Last October, 105 kg heroin worth US$96 mn (Rs 525 crore) was seized from cement bags in one consignment alone. This led to the cement trade between the two countries being suspended for some time.

The Punjab Police had last month recovered over 28 kg of heroin after busting an international drug cartel operating out of Punjab. A Canadian and Briton, both of Indian origin, were among nearly 20 people arrested in the case. The police claimed that the gang had also supplied heroin to international boxer Vijender Singh (The boxer has, however, cleared a dope test).

Punjab shares a 553-km barbed-wire fenced international border with Pakistan which is under the vigil of nearly 135 BSF battalions . The drug network operates along the Afghanistan-Pakistan-India route.