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Vaccine seizure exposes racket

Siliguri, Feb. 1: The seizure of 1,800 ampoules containing poultry vaccines smuggled in from Nepal has blown the lid off a racket.

Officials of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), acting on a tip-off, stopped a Maruti van at Baghajatin Park here on Wednesday.

“We found the ampoules made in the Netherlands inside the vehicle. The driver, who was detained, revealed that he had been sent by a Nepali national to deliver the goods at the spot,” said S.K. Chakraborty, the deputy director of the DRI in Siliguri.

Sudhir Maharajan, the Nepali national who was also arrested from a hotel in Siliguri, told the officials that the consignment from the Netherlands had been received in Kathmandu from where he brought it here.

“The vaccines are smuggled into India and sold at lower rates which attract hatchery owners from across the country. This time, somebody from Chennai was supposed to take the delivery, but did not turn up,” the official said.

Made by the Dutch company, Intervet International BV, the seized ampoules contain three types of poultry vaccines — Nobilis SG9R Salmonella Gallinarium (used to check salmonella), Nobilis IB Ma5 and Nobilis IB 4/91 (both used to check infectious bronchitis). “Each ampoule contains 1,000 doses of the vaccines and the total cost of the booty seized is around Rs 20 lakh,” Chakraborty said.

Maharajan has also revealed the names of some hatcheries of north Bengal that buy the smuggled vaccines. “Our officers are verifying his statement,” the DRI official said. Both Maharajan and the driver have been sent to 14 days of jail custody by a Siliguri court.

According to animal husbandry officials in Delhi, these vaccines do not protect poultry against bird flu, as many hatchery owners thought.

Indigenously-made and imported poultry vaccines for both viral infectious bronchitis and bacterial salmonella are available in India. The Dutch vaccine, too, is sold in the country. “It is possible that vaccines that Nepal got for free are being sold in Indian clients at a very low price,” one scientist said.

Nepal has not introduced any bird flu vaccine yet. But scientists are worried that vaccine against avian influenza might be smuggled into India from China, which has used it on a limited scale.

The Centre has set up a technical committee to examine the implications of introducing a bird flu vaccine to protect poultry.

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