KOLLAM: Uncertainty still prevails over the setting up of a modernised checkpost in Aryankavu, which is one of the biggest border checkposts in the state, even after smugglers recently managed to traffic spirit and other illegal substances in huge quantities.
Though the government had said that it would modernise the checkpost and utilise 2.5 acres of land near it to create a separate checking yard a few years back, it has so far done nothing in this regard resulting in lax checking of tanker lorries and luxury vehicles.
On a daily basis, five officials at a time have to check close to 1,000 goods carriers and 500 light vehicles. The task becomes more difficult as these officials have to use crude methods of checking such as using iron rods to detect the presence of contraband. “We have to pierce the sacks being transported on lorries using iron rods and this method works for only a few types of goods,” an Excise official told Express.
As the officials have to check every consignment before clearing it, the checkpost is witnessing a lengthy queue of vehicles and officials checking the sacks using iron rods has become a regular sight. Moreover, smugglers have outsmarted the officials using more sophisticated methods of smuggling in items like spirit. The recent case is that of seizure of 10,000 litres of spirit from a tanker, meant for Onam supply.
The consignment had managed to clear the routine inspection at the Aryankavu checkpost. The tanker was seized near Thenmala. The tanker was claimed to be transporting sodium silicate, a hazardous chemical used for industrial purposes. However, the tanker had a secret chamber which was filled with spirit, while the label of the chemical was stuck outside the tanker.
“When we checked inside the tanker, we found sodium silicate. To find the secret chambers, we require specific information. Otherwise it is very difficult to detect it during routine inspection,” said an official, who was part of the team that cleared the tanker at the checkpost.
The statement by the tanker driver who admitted that he used this method to successfully transport spirit on nine previous occasions, exposes the major drawback at the checkpost. Whenever such incidents happen, the department resorts to changing the officials manning the checkpost at that time to other parts of the district as a punishment. But it is said that these measures by the department will dampen the morale of the employees and this in turn result in them taking more time to clear vehicles, thereby causing longer queues.
There is also a complaint that the officers posted in checkposts do not have even basic amenities such as toilets. Currently, the checkpost functions from a room of a building owned by the Commercial Taxes Department.
The difficulty faced by the officials manning the checkpost was pointed out by Food Safety officials who went for a border duty near Onam time. “We had to manage with whatever facilities the Excise Dept had. It was difficult, especially for women officers to work there,” a Food Safety official said.