Smuggling via Indo-Bangla border: Govt orders inquiry

The central government has ordered an inquiry into an organised racket of limestone and coal smuggling to Bangladesh from its border in Meghalaya worth about Rs 400 crore. It was learnt that during UPA rule in connivance with some of the Congress leaders nearly 108 lakh MT of limestone and 100 lakh MT of coal was smuggled to Bangladesh between 2008 and 2013. However, the Directorate of Mineral Resources has failed to take action against 138 coal exporters who had
exported coal to Bangladesh without payment of royalty to India through Baghmara, Gasupara and Dalu border areas of Meghalaya-Bangladesh.

Due to absence of check gates at Shella Bazar and Bholaganj, nearly 103.57 lakh MT of limestone found its way into Bangladesh between 2008 and 13 without payment of cess amounting to Rs 18 crore (additional). Sources said, in the recent to visit to Bangladesh, External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj apart from raising several key issues, has also pitched for her counterpart’s assistance in preventing the illegal smuggling of natural resources from India to Bangladesh.
‘It is a very sensitive issue and we have found the involvement of several political leaders in India as well as Bangladesh who are controlling the whole illegal operation from the border areas. Our prime minister Narendra Modi has asked the home ministry to initiate action in curbing the ill practice at the earliest,’ a home ministry source said.

When asked about the volume of limestone and coal being smuggled to Bangladesh in terms of revenue loss, he said, ‘On the basis of preliminary findings we have suffered a loss of Rs 105.05 crore of limestone and coal worth Rs 169.2 crore. This amount could be more as the investigation is underway.’ It was also found that there was short-realisation of ‘additional’ revenue worth Rs 81.40 crore due to failure of the Directorate of Mineral Resources in assessing the performances of check gates (sharing Indo-Bangladesh border) on returns submitted by the mafia, while transporting the natural resources to Bangladesh.

‘We have also found the involvement of DMR officials in the racket. This became evident when they failed to furnish any documents or justify the expenditure of Rs 12.20 crore they had asked for research, survey and mapping of another possible areas for mining without affecting the ecological balance of the region,’ home ministry sources said.

‘Though the government inquiry has been ordered, we are in the process of setting up a task force to take punitive measures against the smugglers and already the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board has been asked to give us a report on illegal mining and its impact on the local ecology,’ he said.
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