BSF steps up vigil, coordination as heroin smugglers remain unrelenting

Till April 6 this year, the BSF has seized nearly 105kg of heroin worth Rs525 crore in the international market

Jalandhar, Punjab: The Border Security Force (BSF) has stepped up its vigil — and coordination with other agencies — to counter unceasing efforts by Pakistani smugglers to push heroin consignments into India.

BSF’s Punjab Frontier Inspector General (IG) Mukul Goel said that better coordination with other agencies, including the Punjab Police, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and Customs, have helped achieve better results.

“The heroin haul last year was higher as coordination between the agencies was better. This led to better results and seizures,” Goel told IANS at the BSF frontier headquarters here.

The BSF seized nearly 280kg of heroin last year along Punjab’s international border with Pakistan. This seizure was roughly worth Rs14 billion ($214 million, Dh787 million) in the international market.

Till April 6 this year, the BSF has seized nearly 105kg of heroin worth Rs5.25 billion in the international market.

Punjab is a major destination and transit point for drugs being smuggled through the Afghanistan-Pakistan-India route.

Smugglers from the Pakistan side, assisted by their counterparts from this side of the border, use various methods to push heroin consignments into Punjab. From there, the drug is taken to markets in Punjab, Delhi, Goa, Mumbai and other places.

These methods include “Pipe Method” (packing heroin in packets of 1-kg and pushing them through the border fence in a PVC pipe), “Conceal and Clear” method (hiding a consignment of heroin in agricultural fields inside Indian territory but beyond the barbed wire fence.

This is recovered later by farmers who are allowed to go across the fence to cultivate their land along the border) and “Throwing Method” (throwing neatly packed packets of heroin over the fence and running back into Pakistan. The packets are recovered later by Indian smugglers from the agricultural fields).

By the time the heroin reaches the customer, its international price spikes to Rs50 million per kilogram.

In 2012, the BSF had recovered nearly 290kg of heroin, its highest seizure in recent years of stepped-up vigil. The seizure by BSF in 2008 was over 100kg, in 2009 about 120kg, in 2010 about 115kg and in 2011 just around 68kg.

In February 2012, the Customs Department based in Punjab burnt 445kg of heroin worth Rs22.25 billion it had seized in recent years.

In the same year, customs officials seized in just four months (July-October) over 135kg of heroin being smuggled through cement bags being imported from Pakistan through the India-Pakistan goods train. Earlier, in October 2011, 105kg of heroin was seized from cement bags in one consignment alone. This led to the cement trade between the two countries being suspended for some time.

Punjab, which accounts for nearly 60 per cent of the total drugs seized in the country, shares a 553-km-long barbed-wire fenced international border with Pakistan that is under the round-the-clock vigil of nearly 135 BSF battalions (1,000-1,200 officers and troopers).

Goel said that the roads along the border were being metalled to make patrolling easier for the BSF troopers.

“Our troopers have to maintain high vigil at all times in extreme conditions. From zero visibility due to severe fog, where even night vision devices don’t help, to heatwaves, we guard the border 24X7,” the IG pointed out.

Temperatures vary widely — during winter months they fall to zero degrees Celsius and below (December-February) and rise to highs of 45 degrees and beyond in summer (May-July).

The troopers also have to face harsh conditions due to flooding of major rivers like the Sutlej, Beas and Ravi flowing along the border.

The riverine belt, where the barbed wire fencing cannot be erected, has to be guarded with other methods and human vigil. These rivers and some other rivulets criss-cross the border a few times, making security difficult.

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