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Betel nut smuggled to Nagpur from Sri Lanka via Mumbai

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Much of these betel nuts are being smuggled into the Indian mainland through sea route evading various duties and taxes running into crores of rupees. Apart from tax evasion, smuggling of sub-standard betel nuts from Indonesia is also affecting business of local traders.

According to official sources, instead of Myanmar port and then through north-east roadways via Guwahati, some traders are procuring sub-standard betel nuts from Indonesia at cheaper rates via Sri Lanka.

Sources stated the substandard betel nuts are brought to Sri Lanka from Indonesia due to low import duty. Fake documents are prepared to show the betel nuts as grown locally in Sri Lanka.

From Sri Lanka, betel nuts are brought to JNPT in Navi Mumbai from where they are distributed to different parts of India including Nagpur which is considered the biggest hub in central India.

In Nagpur, the betel nuts are processed by smoking it with sulphur dioxide and then cut into pieces before flavouring, scenting and colouring it to make it base material for tobacco products.

Experts like senior onco surgeon Dr Sudhir Deshmukh stating that Central India is the worst hit region in the country as far as tobacco-related cancer is concerned.
Dr Deshmukh said the youngest patient he has seen was an eight-year-old who had started chewing tobacco while preparing ‘kharra’ for his father at their family’s pan kiosk. “Betel nut is commonly consumed with tobacco like sweetened supari. These can damage oral cavity, esophagus, throat, stomach and lungs,” he said.

“Chewing betel nuts over a long period of time can cause trauma to the oral cavity which can turn problematic in due course of time,” he said.

As per the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) records, 77 betel nut samples were collected from different godowns in the district between April last year and March this year. Around 18 samples tasted sub-standard and 23 unsafe for consumption.

Materials worth around Rs 5.41 crore were seized too. “Some betel nut traders take advantage of weak legislations to continue their trade but some have also faced repeated actions,” said an FDA official.

Despite action from FDA and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), insider sources stated that some unscrupulous traders have continued their illegal business. The CBI had for the first time conducted raids last month to crack down on the betel nut smugglers. (Times of India)

Source DailyNews
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