regular-article-logo Monday, 25 September 2023

175 trucks with wheat seized

Glare on smuggling of PDS food grain to Bangladesh

Subhasish Chaudhuri Ghojadanga Published 31.10.20, 01:18 AM
Some of the seized trucks at Ghojadanga land port.

Some of the seized trucks at Ghojadanga land port. Pashupati Das

Customs authorities over the last few weeks have seized 175 trucks laden with wheat packed in gunny bags with FCI tags suspecting that essential food grains meant for public distribution were being illegally exported to Bangladesh through the Ghojadanga land port in North 24-Parganas.

After preliminary verification, customs authorities handed over the trucks to the Basirhat police on October 20 and lodged a complaint as well.


Basirhat police on the basis of the complaint have begun a case against 13 exporters on Thursday accusing them of possessing, receiving, dealing, and concealing stolen property.

The entire consignment of the wheat loaded in the 175 vehicles is estimated to be around 4,500 tonnes and remain parked outside the Ghojadanga land port under police vigilance.

The incident has angered the exporters who have refuted the allegations claiming that the customs authorities were harassing them even though they had submitted bills to prove that the wheat had been bought from open markets in Bengal and other states .

They also claimed that the gunny bags with the FCI tags do not necessarily mean the food grain were meant for public distribution as such old gunny bags with such official tags are openly available in the market.

The exporters, who are from North 24-Parganas, Malda, Murshidabad, Habra, Barasat, Ashoknagar, Bongaon and other places, have appealed to the Federation of Indian Export Organisations to take up the issue with the customs authorities.

State food and supply minister Jyotipriya Mullick, however, appeared unconvinced with the claim of the exporters and alleged that the consignment of wheat from Punjab was being “smuggled” to Bangladesh through the Bengal land port.

“This is a big scam that has been going on for a long time now. In the recent past, the state administration had also nabbed such consignment of wheat at Benapole,” the minister said, adding that seized food grain would be distributed among the people through the local administration if the court permitted it.

A customs official posted in Ghojadanga said: “We have strong reasons to suspect foul play in the procurement of wheat since all the bags had FCI tags. It is not clear if the tags were fake or the food grain was packed in old bags. After preliminary examination we felt suspicious about the authenticity of procurement of the consignment and requested the police to investigate.”

An officer of the Basirhat police said on the basis of a complaint by the Customs officials, a case had been started.

“We have got in touch with the exporters and asked them to meet the investigating officers with their procurement documents,” he said.

An exporter said: “We have all the necessary documents of purchase, export apart from clearance for loading for export. We have handed over all the documents to the police. Hope the police will act without prejudice.”

FCI sources admitted that old gunny bags were often sold in the market and it often led to confusion.

A police officer said: “It is true that reused gunny bags with FCI tags are available in the market. But we need to ascertain it”.

An exporter also pointed out that in 2018, Patna High Court had dismissed a criminal case filed by Bihar Food and Consumer Protection Department that accused a trader of illegally dealing with rice packed in similar gunny bags with FCI tags claiming it was meant for public distribution.

Follow us on: