The bottles of cough syrup seized in Barpeta district
Guwahati, Oct. 1: Drug seizures, especially of cough syrup, have become commonplace in the region. Yet coordination between enforcement agencies appears to have cracks that might be abused by those in the illegal drug trade.
Pointers to this came in the form of contradictory statements made by police and customs officials about seizure of a truckload of cough syrup in Assam’s Barpeta district yesterday.
Even more intriguing is the fact that amidst it all, the truck’s driver and helpers seem to have “disappeared”.
The illegal consignment of cough syrup containing codeine (a derivative of opium) allegedly bound for Bangladesh was seized near Howly in Barpeta district yesterday.
While both the police and customs officials are claiming credit for the seizure, their versions on how the seizure was made are contradictory.
Moreover, while the customs officials claim to have seized the truck along with the driver and the helpers, the police say they are “absconding”.
Barpeta superintendent of police G.V. Siva Prasad told The Telegraph over phone that a police team intercepted the truck after a brief chase and seized the huge consignment of codeine-laced cough syrup.
He said the operation was carried out based on intelligence provided by their sources.
Prasad said nobody, however, could be arrested as the driver and his helpers managed to flee.
The customs officials, on the other hand, claimed that acting on a tip-off, a team of their officials from Guwahati went to Howly and found the truck parked by the kerb with the driver and two of his helpers inside it.
“The police team reached the spot much later and took away the truck, saying that they would register a case since the area fell under their jurisdiction. We are surprised how the driver and the two helpers have been declared absconders by police,” a customs officer said.
The Barpeta SP said a total of 7,950 bottles of Phensedyl and 9,900 bottles of Recodex cough syrup were found in the truck hidden under bags of rice.
The truck, bearing registration number NL-02 K-7428, was coming from Siliguri and was on its way to Agartala.
Though the approximate value of the seizure has been pegged at around Rs 14 lakh, its price in the grey market will be much higher since one bottle of cough syrup having priced at Rs 80 was sold for several hundreds of rupees in the grey market.
“From Agartala, the consignment would have been smuggled to Bangladesh,” the customs source said.
He said largescale diversion of stocks of such cough syrup from Bengal to the Northeast for smuggling to Bangladesh had become a major concern for them.
Some licensed stockists and distributors of pharmaceutical companies based in Bengal are suspected to be diverting stocks of cough syrup containing codeine to the Northeast for smuggling to the neighbouring country, where it is in high demand among addicts.
Because of rampant smuggling of cough syrup, the Centre has directed the customs department to take special measures to check the illegal export by strengthening vigil along the India-Bangladesh border.