Narinjara news

A taskforce to stop smuggling in the unguarded seas

Teknaf, 15
th September 03: The smuggling in of fish, spices, textile goods and drugs worth millions of taka from Burma has raised high concern in Bangladesh.  The rampant smuggling prevalent in the open unguarded waters of the Bay of Bengal has challenged the border trade between the two neighbours.  The realization of revenue has also come down in the last year.

In these circumstances the concerned officials have appealed to the Ministry of Home Affairs for the formation of a high-powered taskforce comprised of police, customs and coastguard.

According to sources in the customs the import through the Land Customs station at Teknaf include dried fish, mango, pickles, sandals, tamarind, betel nuts, ginger, etc., while previously the items of import included spices including cumin seeds, clove, cardamom, etc.  But for the last one month there has been no import of the spices.  At present items like spices, fish, drugs, weapons and fishing nets are being smuggled in directly from Sittwe to Chittagong and other parts of the country through the open unguarded high seas, resulting in stalemate in the border trade.

According to the sources a total of taka 20.5 million was realized last June as revenue from the border trade, which is taka five million less than the revenue of the month of May.  Now only fish is imported from Burma  and if the situation continues, there is every possibility that the border trade will come to a close.  In the 2002  03 fiscal year, the government of Bangladesh realized taka 380.98 million as duties from the Teknaf land port.  The amount was taka 80 million more than that of the fiscal 2001  02.  The collection of revenue that year totalled taka 307.42 million.  The officials demand that the joint drive and vigilance by the BDR border forces and customs department has helped to impose check on the smuggling and stop transport of imported goods through fake official papers.

But the increase in smuggling in the high seas has posed threat both to the traders and the relevant officials, the sources said.  In this regards the deputy commissioner of the Customs Excise and VAT Circle of Cox’s Bazaar has said that if the smuggling of fish, spices and other goods through the open seas could be checked, the revenue collection from the border trade would go up manifold.  The legal traders are also facing financial loss, as the price of smuggled goods is just a fraction of that of the imported ones.  Many traders have meanwhile stopped to do trade with Burma, as the imported goods cannot see profitability.

According to a number of sources in the border a number of strong smuggling syndicates operating on both sides of the border control the trans-border smuggling.  #