POST TIME: 10 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Move to curb smuggling in Maitree Express
Deepak Acharjee

Move to curb smuggling in Maitree Express

The government has taken seven decisions to stop smuggling by “luggage parties” in Maitree Express, the international passenger train service plying between Dhaka and Kolkata for the past 10 years. The decisions were taken at a recent inter-ministerial meeting chaired by the National Board of Revenue (NBR) chairman, Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan. The commissioner of Customs House in Dhaka, Prokash Dewan, informed the meeting that there were many “luggage parties” who smuggled goods in their baggages without declaration while visiting Dhaka and Kolkata frequently in the guise of passengers.

“They are using some railway stations such as Iswardi, Tongi and even the Cantonment railway station, since there is no security and movable fencing to control the passengers. The windows of Maitree Express often remain open during its run,” he said.

The customs official also said that members of the luggage parties throw their goods through the windows of the train before it reach the stations concerned.

He further said that there was no bank at the Cantonment railway station to deposit the revenues collected from the passengers and businessmen. Thus, the Cantonment railway station was now under security threat, he added.

Dewan said that customs officials filed 181 cases against luggage parties so far.

Dr Moinul Khan, former director general (DG) of Customs Intelligence and Investigation, said there were only 30 policemen to provide security to

the passengers in the international train. He urged the authorities concerned to stop the 10-minute stoppage of the train at the Iswardi railway

station during its run.

To ensure the security of the train as well as the passengers, Md Munim Hassan, joint secretary of Security Service Division of the home ministry, recommended the deployment of members of the Armed Police Battalion (APBn).

After the discussion, the NBR chairman decided to build a godown, set up movable fencing, two scanning machines, surveillance of the passengers by customs intelligence personnel, stop stoppage at Iswardi station, set up a bank and close all windows of the train before it reached its destination.

Sources in the Customs intelligence said that many passengers of the train brought goods into the country without paying duties and taxes.

Many passengers in the train frequently brought Indian three-piece, Panjabi and imitation jewelleries in their luggage without paying taxes, they said.

Locomotive masters (train drivers) in connivance with the passengers arranged to unload the smuggled and duty-evaded goods at different places between Darshana and Dhaka cantonment by reducing the speed of the train, the sources added.

The sources suggested the scanning of baggage of passengers under the risk management system, as in airports. Maitree Express is the name of the first modern international passenger train service connecting Bangladesh to the Indian state of West Bengal.

Train services continued between the two countries before the partition of India. After 43 years, the connection was re-established between Dhaka and Kolkata in 2008.

It runs six days a week from each side, traveling around 375 km between Dhaka and Kolkata. It takes around 10 to 11 hours to cover the entire stretch.