Young Mizo Association
Representative image.

The central executive committee of Young Mizo Association (CYMA) on Wednesday formed a committee to study and assess cross-border illegal trade.

The formation of the committee came in the wake of a police case registered against Champhai district deputy commissioner Maria CT Zuali for torching over 100 dried betel nut bags smuggled from Myanmar recently.

The meeting of the central executive committee of YMA held on Wednesday widely deliberated about the smuggling of areca nuts and other illegal trade from southeast Asian countries and formed a committee to study cross-border illegal trade, a statement issued by the organisation said.

The organisation also urged all its leaders and members not to indulge in the smuggling of areca nuts from southeast Asian countries as it greatly impacted the Mizo society, the statement said.

It also urged the authorities to concertedly take measures to end the illegal trade, it said.

The meeting further decided to take efforts to permanently end the smuggling of areca nuts from southeast Asian countries.

The organisation extended solidarity to Champhai DC for her bold action to stop illegal trade from neighbouring countries, the statement added.

Following a complaint filed by an illegal areca nuts transporter, a police case was registered against Maria CT Zuali for allegedly torching 150 bags of areca nuts smuggled from Myanmar recently.

Police said that the Champhai district magistrate accompanied by other officials intercepted nine trucks fully loaded with smuggled areca nuts near Kelkang village in Champhai district on December 18.

Five of the nine trucks ran away before the official could take action, they said.

The officials unloaded the smuggled areca nut bags from three trucks and burnt on the spot, they said.

Following the incident, an Aizawl-based areca nuts transporter Lalhruaitluangi registered a complaint with state police against Maria CT Zuali, who is a Mizo Civil Service (MCS) officer.

In her FIR, Lalhruaitluangi had alleged that the Champhai district magistrate along with other officials intercepted their trucks carrying areca nuts near Kelkang village on December 18.

The district officials unloaded 150 bags of areca nuts from three trucks and burnt on the spot, it said.

The District Magistrate has also allegedly snatched the drivers’ mobile phones and their ignition keys.

Lalhruaitluangi demanded action against the district magistrate for allegedly torching their goods without first verifying whether they were of foreign origin and without the permission of the owners and also forcefully snatching away drivers’ mobile phones and ignition keys.

The FIR was filed at Champhai police station, which registered a case under sections 435 (Mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage), 427 (Mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees) and 341 (Wrongful restrain) of the IPC.

The complaint against Maria drew flak from different quarters with opposition parties accusing the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) government headed by chief minister Zoramthanga of entertaining a smuggler to file a complaint against the district magistrate for her effort to end the illegal trade.

Besides, several political parties and organisations, including Mizoram Civil Service Association (MCSA), backed Maria and extended solidarity for her courageous action against smuggling and corss-border illegal trade.

Recently, a well-known social activist Vanramchhuangi wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking the Centre’s intervention to stop cross-border smuggling of dried areca nuts from several southeast Asian countries through Champhai and Lawngtlai districts in Mizoram that border Myanmar.

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According to Vanramchhuangi, the government of Mizoram gave ‘Place of Origin’ credentials to dried areca nut smuggled through the Indo-Myanmar border from various South East Asian countries.

These contraband are then categorized as products under GST Heading No:0802 and levied 5% GST, she said.

She alleged that numerous smuggling routes were constructed by smugglers and there are 40 such roads in Champhai district alone on which smugglers used to transport their goods.

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According to data available with the Central Custom department, as many as 1,108.97 metric tons of areca nuts worth over Rs. 35.84 crore smuggled from Myanmar were seized in Mizoram during this year till November.

Of the 1,108.97 matric ton, 976.37 metric tons of areca nuts were seized by Customs officials, while 132.60 metric tons were seized by other agencies, it said.

The department also registered 79 cases in connection with the smuggling of areca nuts during the same period.

During 2020, over 1,080 metric tons of smuggled areca nuts worth Rs 33.82 crore were seized and at least 148 cases registered in connection with the smuggling of areca nuts from Myanmar, the data said.

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