Thursday, April 25, 2024

Citizen moves PMO against sugar smuggling


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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, March 18: A concerned citizen of the state has spilled the beans on a thriving sugar racket and smuggling nexus blooming in Meghalaya with the support and blessings of people in power. Adelbert Sohtun, a resident of Pynthorbah, Shillong, has shot off a petition to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) highlighting the illegal export of sugar (both white and refined varieties) through Meghalaya to Bangladesh.
In his petition, Sohtun claimed that export of sugar was banned as per the DGFT Notification No 36/2023 dated October 18, 2023, to keep inflation under control and for the welfare of the common public.
Sohtun stated that Meghalaya has become the hotbed of illegal sugar export and hundreds of truckloads of sugar are exported illegally to Bangladesh via the Gasuapara, Borsora, Cherragaon, Dawki, and Dalu land customs stations.
He said that these trucks come from Assam carrying sugar and after making “payments” at all police stations along the way to reach the designated land customs station (LCS) without any documentation.
Sohtun went on to claim that the general rate paid to the officer in-charge at a police station is about Rs 2,500- Rs 3,000 per vehicle.
“When the vehicle reaches the LCS, an amount of Rs 40,000 for big trucks and Rs 20,000 for smaller trucks is paid to the concerned officers to facilitate the illegal export,” Sohtun said in the petition submitted to the Rohit Yadav, Joint Secretary in the PMO.
Sohtun said the amount is distributed in such a way that the local MLA gets Rs 10,000 for each small vehicle and Rs 20,000 for bigger vehicles, the SP and DC get Rs 2,000 each for smaller vehicles and Rs 4,000 for bigger vehicles, the Superintendent of Customs gets Rs 4,000 for smaller vehicles and Rs 8,000 for bigger vehicles while the BSF gets Rs 4,000 for smaller vehicles and Rs 8,000 for bigger vehicles.
He further claimed that in some areas, the collection is done directly by people close to the MLA while in other areas, the police collect the money from the truckers. Sohtun alleged that the local MLAs are working in close range with these smugglers to ensure that the media and the locals do not report the smuggling activities to the authorities.
According to him, junior officials of the police, administration, Customs and BSF openly claim that they are sharing the bulk of the illegally collected money with their superiors.
“The entire process of smuggling is carried out in an organised manner and some big people from Assam and Meghalaya are involved in this illegal smuggling. This syndicate chooses the transporters who will be permitted to smuggle illegal sugar to Bangladesh,” he said.
The concerned citizen further claimed that the extent of this syndicate is such that recently a group of smugglers who were not part of this syndicate tried to smuggle sugar, but were singled out and caught and their vehicles and load were seized. He submitted copies of documents to substantiate his claims.
“This is in direct contradiction to the vision of the Prime Minister and the Government of India, by which they want that the inflation should be under control and black money needs to be abolished in the country. Hence, with sincere request, I would like to request you to kindly launch an investigation into this matter and take serious steps for the same,” Sohtun added.
Curiously, Sohtun’s claim of illegal smuggling of sugar was also endorsed by the Meghalaya Importers & Exporters Chamber of Commerce (MIECC), which stated that smuggling is no longer restricted to cattle and drugs but has now expanded to include onion and sugar.
“Tonnes of sugar and onions are being smuggled to Bangladesh on a daily basis which has led to the increase in their price in the domestic market and this has affected the consumers,” MIECC secretary Dolly Khonglah said.
She claimed that long queues of trucks loaded with onion and sugar are a common sight in Tamabil, waiting for the go ahead to enter Bangladesh.
According to her, the smugglers are different routes to smuggle onions and sugar to Bangladesh.
“What is worse is that the smugglers often damage the water sources and pipelines, leading to severe scarcity of water in Dawki,” Khonglah said, claiming that the sudden surge in sugar and onion smuggling is due to the increase in duty of these commodities by the Bangladesh government.
“Previously, the duty for legally exporting sugar was 1 Bangladeshi Taka which has now shot up to 35 Bangladeshi Taka, making smuggling more appealing,” she claimed.
Expressing concern that even community leaders are being drawn into this, she suggested that the border haats appear to have been opened just for show, while the clandestine trade happens elsewhere.


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