Amritsar, Feb 6 (IANS) The Border Security Force (BSF) has a new menacing enemy on the 553-km border with Pakistan in Punjab - drugs.
The BSF drive to check drugs smuggling, especially heroin, has resulted in the highest ever seizure of heroin - nearly 290 kg - in 2012. The contraband was said to be valued at over Rs.1,450 crore (about $273 million) in the international market.
In January this year, the BSF confiscated over 25 kg of heroin, worth over Rs.125 crore (about $23 million). Ten kg was seized from the Amritsar sector Jan 22 followed by a seizure of 15 kg from the Gurdaspur sector two days later.
The seizures of 2012 surpassed all recent records.
The seizure by the BSF in 2008 was over 100 kg. It rose in 2009 to about 120 kg, dipped slightly the next year to about 115 kg, and in 2011 it was only around 68 kg.
"We recovered 288 kg of heroin in Punjab in 2012," BSF's Punjab frontier Inspector General Aditya Mishra said.
In fact, the BSF seized over 200 kg of heroin in the first eight months of 2012, leaving BSF officials baffled at the sudden increase in smuggling from Pakistan.
"Smugglers from both sides (India and Pakistan) are involved. We killed nine Pakistani smugglers and arrested 19 Indians in the past year," a BSF officer told IANS.
Punjab shares a 553-km barbed wire fenced border with Pakistan which is guarded by 134 battalions of the BSF round the clock.
"In today's world, conventional war being a rarity, the BSF faces never-ending challenges day and night in the form of infiltration of terrorists and smuggling of weapons and narcotics," a BSF spokesman said.
He said that newer technologies were being adopted in daily duties of the troopers for effective border management and curbing of smuggling.
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 Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and customs as well as the Punjab Police Special Operations Cell.
In 2012, customs officials seized 135 kg of heroin packed in cement bags imported from Pakistan through the India-Pakistan goods train in just four months (July-October).
The seizure is valued at Rs.675 crore (about $127.2 million) in the international market.
In October last year, 105 kg of heroin was seized from cement bags in one consignment. This led to the suspension of cement trade between the two countries for some time.
These agencies have made significant heroin seizures in recent months as well.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)