By Rajnish Singh
New Delhi, July 7 (IANS) Petrapole Integrated Check Point (ICP) on India-Bangladesh border — a major bilateral commerce source of the two neighbouring countries which saw an annual trade of over Rs 21,380 crore in 2018 — is on surveillance by Indian agencies and the border guarding force BSF for human trafficking.
Activities of human trafficking gangs were noted soon after the trade between India and Bangladesh resumed through the Petrapole-Benapole ICP — the issue which has led to discontent brewing in India’s eastern neighbour with whom New Delhi has worked hard to improve ties.
Based on intelligence inputs, the Border Security Force (BSF) — which is mandated to guard 4,096 km India-Bangladesh border — has arrested six Bangladeshi nationals in five instances since June 20, defended attempts to intrude into India and freed them from the clutches of human traffickers, an official familiar with the development told IANS.
The official, requesting anonymity said, the human smugglers have adopted a new method. “They are using the coaches of the goods trains for human trafficking,” he said.
The BSF has raised the issue with senior Railway officials and told them to ensure when the goods train coaches are emptied, then these should be checked and sealed properly to avoid illegal intrusion into the compartments.
Of the six intruders held so far by the BSF since June 20 include two children below 18 years, who were trafficked to India. Besides, three Bangladeshi nationals, who were hiding in mirchi bags in a cargo train going to Bangladesh, were arrested from Petrapole railway station.
On Monday, at 1.25 p.m. a freight train was coming from Bangladesh to India, when 179th Battalion of BSF personnel checked the train engine number 16265 and bogie number 30099869455 on the information of the intelligence branch of BSF, a middle-aged man was found hiding in it.
“The BSF immediately took him into custody. On questioning, he revealed his name as Mohammad Abu Tahir (41), a resident of Burburia, Komila (Bangladesh),” the official said.
Tahir informed the BSF that he was told by the trafficker to sit in a vacant bogie and that he came to India to get a job with the help of another broker named Akbar Mandal, who lives in Petrapole area.
After earning money, the official said, Tahir wanted to go to Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan.
“The captured intruder has not yet provided any specific information on the questioning but it seems to be a case of human trafficking as Petrapole has a network of human traffickers who are able to extract a sizeable amount from innocent people. They do illegal businesses,” the official said.
The arrested intruder was handed over to GRP Bangaon for further legal proceedings.
The ICP Petrapole is located about 80 kms from Kolkata while Benapole is the corresponding place in Bangladesh. The foundation stone of the ICP was laid on August 19, 2011 and the cargo complex of ICP Petrapole was operationalized on February 12, 2016.
Through the ICP, India exports cotton fabrics, synthetic fibres, motor vehicle chassis, two wheeler/motorcycles/scooters, non-alloy steel, machinery parts, yarn, books and papers, iron and steel products and, cereals and other food products. However, India imported jute products, knitted fabrics, betel nut, rice bran, fish, zinc plate, cotton rags, lead, readymade garments and re-processed plastic agglomerates.
The total trade through ICP Petrapole between January and June last year was Rs 4,859 crore. The trade through the ICP was Rs 21,380 crore in 2018; Rs 18,798 crore in 2017; Rs 18,501 crore in 2016; Rs 16,340 crore in 2015; and Rs 15,187 in 2014.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at [email protected])