JAIGAON (INDO-BHUTAN BORDER):Thousands of crores of rupees worth red sanders from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are allegedly being smuggled through this town by the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal to China through Bhutan.
In April, a special team of AP police, which deals with red sanders smuggling, raided several places in Alipurduar district and from Hashimara arrested Soundara Rajan, a resident of Tamil Nadu. The AP police, after carrying out a detailed investigation in various parts of north Bengal, sent a report to the Centre. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) subsequently asked several central investigative agencies to secretly probe the smuggling of red sanders.
The MHA report identified Wilson Champramari, TMC MLA from Kalchini in Alipurduar district, his father Subin, Shyam Biswakarma in this town, and Prem Lama of Mirik in Darjeeling district as the kingpins behind the red sanders smuggling to China. A senior police officer said, “Rajan was a Tamil, originally hailing from Myanmar. Since the last decade, he established his base in South India and there are at least 30 criminal cases against him in the states. Through a contact he created another base at Kalchini and befriended Wilson.”
In July, the Sashastra Seema Bal, which guards the Bhutan and Nepal borders, raided Wilson’s village in West Santali and seized Rs 30 crore worth red sanders buried in the home of a man who claimed he had stored it at the behest of the MLA’s father Subin Champramari. The arrested couple Ramel Karzi and Malati Narzinari claimed they were forced to store the red sanders by Subin who threatened to expel them from the village if they refused.
Wilson, elected as an independent with the support of the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, later defected to the Trinamool and has practically gone underground. After his name cropped up in the MHA report, he alleged that it was a political conspiracy.
The red sanders are brought in trucks from South India, hidden under other commodities that are light in weight, and then unloaded at Santali village near the Indian Air Force base at Hashimara. Because of Wilson’s clout which he apparently gained through the TMC MP, the State forest department and police turned a blind eye to his activities though locals said the red sanders were openly transported to warehouses in Kalchini. So powerful is Wilson’s influence that any newcomer or unknown face at Kalchini or near the warehouses would be reported to the network. The modus operandi of the network was to load the red sanders in small trucks and transport them through this town to cross the “Bhutan gate” in the evenings when the Customs and Immigration authorities would be very busy closing for the day.
The MHA report also said: “Rajan has a huge network with senior police officers and forest department officials of several states on his payroll. As such, none of his trucks from South India were ever checked on the way to north Bengal.”
It also named a former minister of Andhra Pradesh, a former legislator of Tamil Nadu and several politicians in South India who patronized Rajan and his aide in TN, Saravanan. The mobile call records showed several such names and the AP police had reported the matter to the MHA.
A West Bengal police officer said that much before the raids and the MHA report, the State intelligence unit, had in a report, informed the Home Department and the Chief Minister’s Office about the red sanders being stockpiled in Kalchini and Hashimara to be smuggled to China. The officer said the amount of money involved was astronomical and hence it was easy to silence even senior officials and with the backing of the powerful MP, Wilson could carry on the business for the last four years.