Smuggling from Myanmar, Assam govt's curbs hit arecanut trade in NE states

Aizawl/Agartala, Nov 29 (IANS): Due to large-scale smuggling from Myanmar and Assam government's restrictions, arecanut farmers in the northeastern states, especially Mizoram and Tripura, are affected a lot and are seeking central intervention.

The illicit trade of arecanut, which is also known as betel nut or 'supari', is on the rise with the security forces, including the Assam Rifles, often seizing thousands of tonnes of the product, along with drugs, exotic animals and other goods smuggled in from Myanmar.

To curb the clandestine trade of arecanut, the Assam government recently imposed some strict restrictions to ferry arecanut through its territory, affecting the farmers of Tripura and Mizoram from supplying their produce to other parts of India.

The representatives of the Mizoram Church Leaders Committee on Monday discussed the arecanut transportation issue with Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs, John Barla, in Aizawl.

The church leaders explained how smuggling of dry arecanut from Myanmar on large-scale through Mizoram is banned in Assam, which caused the imposition of a ban on exporting locally-grown arecanut of Mizoram as well.

They sought Barla's intervention in resolving this situation.

During the recent meetings on the inter-state border disputes with Assam ministers in Aizawl and Guwahati, the Mizoram delegation, headed by state Home Minister Lalchamliana, told the Assam government that there has been huge unrest among the arecanut growers in the state in view of the problems being faced in transportation of their produce to Assam and other parts of the country.

Congress leader and party legislator Lalrindika Ralte recently sought the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resolve the problems being faced by arecanut growers in Mizoram due to rampant smuggling of Burmese arecanuts.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Ralte said there has been widespread illegal import of dry arecanuts from neighbouring Myanmar and elsewhere through the 518 km borders with Mizoram.

While the Assam government imposed restrictions to curb the entry of arecanuts into the state, law enforcement agencies have not been able to distinguish Burmese arecanuts from those grown in Mizoram and Tripura, leading to severe marketing problems for the local farmers.

Meanwhile, the arecanut growers of Tripura launched an indefinite strike from Monday against the transportation restrictions imposed on their produce by the Assam government.

Jampui Hills, adjoining Mizoram, which is famous for oranges, is also known for large-scale production of arecanuts.

J.D. Mawai, one of the arecanut growers of Jampui Hills, said that after the Assam government imposed transportation restrictions on arecanuts, over 2,000 families dependent on betel nut farming and trade are bearing the brunt.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Saha recently talked with his Assam counterpart Himanta Biswa Sarma over the issue, and wrote a letter to resolve the problem.

During the past several months, Assam police personnel posted across the inter-state border with Tripura have been blocking supply of Tripura's betel nuts consignments ferried by trucks without any reason.

The action of the Assam police has created a livelihood problem for the betel nut cultivators in Tripura.



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Title: Smuggling from Myanmar, Assam govt's curbs hit arecanut trade in NE states

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