At least 300 children being used as drug mules, report says
Murshidabad: At least 300 children are used as carriers in the illegal trade in the Murshidabad district alone, according to an NGO worker in the area.
Soma Bhowmick, director of the Suprava Panchashila Mahila Uddyog Samity (SPMUS), says people living there were not well off economically and didn't have basic amenities which is why smuggling was so popular.
"Children are extensively used in smuggling because they can gather sympathy from Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers," she said. "Women are also used for the same reason." While cattle and rice are often smuggled across the border because of the price difference in the two countries, children are often used to smuggle the cough syrup, Phensedyl.
According to a BSF senior official posted in Fulbari, a border area in Murshidabad, a bottle of Phensedyl in India costs Rs75 while in Bangladesh it costs around Rs400. Phensedyl is also used as a narcotic drug.
"We often catch children smuggling goods, especially Phensedyl. But after seizing the goods, we let them go," said a BSF official on condition of anonymity. "If you put these children behind bars, their entire life will be spoilt. We can only hope that they are sent to school and get an opportunity to build their future," he added.
He added that in several places, like Fulbari, Phensedyl is smuggled by simply throwing it over the fence.
"The BSF camp here [Fulbari] is right near the fence, but beyond the fence there is an Indian village," the official said.
"And just 300m from there is Bangladesh. So at times when we are not looking, Phensedyl is just thrown over the fence to the Indian village, from where it is smuggled to Bangladesh," he added.
BSF opens the gate for Indian villagers on the other side of the fence for a fixed number of hours every day.
According to Bhowmick, the age of child smugglers are generally 8-14.
"It's difficult to put an exact number, but, according to our study in 2007, there are at least 300 children used as carriers in smuggling in Murshidabad alone," Bhowmick said.