Amid COVID-19, Customs seized goods worth Rs 110 crores in NE in 5 months

AGARTALA/SHILLONG:The Customs in association with other central paramilitary forces and agencies have seized various goods worth Rs 110 crore in 710 operations in the northeast since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the region, officials said on Wednesday.

Addressing a discussion on virtual platform, ‘Combating counterfeiting and smuggling during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond’, Commissioner of Customs (North East Region) G.M. Kamei said their officials are conducting raids in coordination with other agencies and paramilitary forces.

He said that the customs officers are working in close coordination with Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Assam Rifles, Border Security Force and various state police forces to curb the illegal trade in the northeastern region. “During the Covid-induced situation, we have effectively conducted 710 operations across the region and seized various goods worth Rs 110 crore,” the Customs’ NE chief said.

The industry body Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) organised the discussion.

Kamei told IANS over phone from Shillong on Wednesday that Rs 110 crore of contraband were seized during the past five months from April to August. Eight northeastern states including Sikkim, share 5,437 kms of international boundaries with China (1,300 km), Myanmar (1,643 km), Bangladesh (1,880 km), Bhutan (516 km) and Nepal (98 km).

Smuggling of drugs, arms and other goods are taking place infrequently across the borders specially from Myanmar. Addressing the discussion, Assam’s Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department Secretary Debajyoti Dutta said the unauthorised traders and criminals indulge in illegal trades, smuggling and unlawful activities promoting crime and economic instability even as the consumers are bearing the brunt of it.

Meanwhile, FICCI said that the Assam Rifles, during its recent successful interception, seized illicit cigarettes, smuggled from neighbouring Myanmar, worth Rs 14 crore. It said that the recent rise in smuggling in the northeastern region can be attributed to economic distress insinuated by Covid-19 pandemic.

“Loss of jobs and lack of income due to recurrent lockdowns have left citizens without a means of livelihood. Reports suggest that smugglers and insurgents are using people from the local tribal areas to transport smuggled goods by taking advantage of their financial vulnerability caused due to Covid-19,” a FICCI report said.

FICCI’s Committee Against Smuggling and Counterfeiting Activities Destroying the Economy (CASCADE), headed by Anil Rajput, highly appreciated the efforts of Assam Rifles and praised its Director General along with other officers for their anti-smuggling operations.

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