The Border Security Force found at least 82 drivers using fake driving licences to ply trucks to and from Bangladesh at Petrapole Integrated Check Post (ICP) in West Bengal over the last two days -- a significant security issue in a sensitive area.
According to BSF spokesperson Krishna Rao, the Customs department and Land Port Authority of India have been informed that drivers operating on fake licences cannot be allowed to operate across the border. A police case is being registered by the force to investigate the "larger conspiracy", Rao added.
The border-guarding force received inputs about a few drivers being involved in transborder crimes such as smuggling of gold, cough syrup, drugs etc while engaged in export and import of goods between India and Bangladesh, following which surprise checks were carried at the Petrapole ICP on January 16 and 17, said Rao.
On Sunday, BSF found 52 fake driving licences and another 30 the following day. A BSF spokesperson said all 82 fake driving licences have been handed over to the Customs.
"The concerned authorities of Customs and Land Port Authority of India were told that BSF cannot allow those trucks to go to Bangladesh whose drivers are found in the possession of a fake driving licence," Rao said.
Rao added, "No driver with a fake driving licence can be allowed to ply the trucks to Bangladesh at any cost. These drivers obtain fake car passes from the customs department using their driving licences."
To ensure smooth trade between India and Bangladesh, BSF has also informed Bangaon Transport Association across the border to follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) so that the security and interests of the two nations are not compromised.
Petrapole ICP is the largest land port in South Asia, located along the international border between India and Bangladesh, about 80 km from Kolkata. Petrapole (India)-Benapole (Bangladesh) is an important land border crossing for both the countries in terms of trade and passenger movement and nearly 30% of land-based trade between India and Bangladesh takes place there.
Since it was operationalised in February 2016, the Petrapole ICP has witnessed an increase in passenger movement, with an average of 2.2 million people crossing the border post on either side each year.
Detailing the reasons why the BSF has decided to beef up security at Petrapole, the spokesperson said the force seized smuggled gold worth around ₹1.4 crore from a transporter while he was trying to escape on a bike on January 4. The gold was smuggled from Bangladesh by concealing it in a truck.
On July 19 last year, gold worth ₹1.71 crore was seized from an Indian driver coming from Bangladesh. Days later on August 21, Saudi riyal worth ₹1.68 crore was recovered from an empty Indian truck returning from Bangladesh after unloading export goods.
Acting on an intelligence input, BSF seized 50 kg of marijuana from an Indian truck on January 9 this year besides several seizures of illegal items including narcotics in last few months.
Rao said that "in all these illegal activities, roles of Indian transporters, labourers, drivers, helpers and different agents and sub-agents have been established".
"It is also worth mentioning that sometimes, drivers with fake driving licences tend to meet road accidents. Even BSF lost the life of one of its jawans when he was overrun by a truck driver in October last year. Therefore, it is necessary that BSF check the validity of the driving licence."