BSF troopers face life-threatening situations while Centre mulls ban on Phensedyl

Indian border guards continue to risk their lives even as the Centre mulls over a ban on Codeine-based cough syrups, a sizeable quantity of which is smuggled to Bangladesh to be used by substance abusers.

On Wednesday, two Border Security Force (BSF) personnel came under brutal attack by smugglers near the Matiyari Border outpost in Nadia district of West Bengal after they attempted to prevent an effort to smuggle a consignment of Phensedyl cough syrup across the border to Bangladesh.

Phensedyl and other Codeine-based cough syrups are banned in Bangladesh where there is a high demand for them from addicts. For decades now, the BSF has been trying to combat the smuggling of Phensedyl along the International Boundary (IB) along West Bengal. However, there is a well-oiled network that operates in parts of the state that are not within the jurisdiction of the BSF. Large consignments of this cough syrup are stored in villages along the border and sent across whenever the opportunity arises.

“Around 8.30 pm on Wednesday, troops of the BSF’s 54 Battalion challenged a group of 10 smugglers led by a person named Milon Mondal. The criminals attacked two of our personnel with sharp-edged weapons. One of the brave constables managed to overpower one of the smugglers despite the attack.

“When he realised that the smugglers wanted to kill them to release their associate, he opened fire with his non-lethal Pump Action Gun (PAG). The smugglers retreated but he managed to hold on to the one he had overpowered. Two BSF personnel were injured in the skirmish,” a senior official of the BSF’s South Bengal Frontier said.

During interrogation, the nabbed smuggler identified himself as Jahangir Alam Mondal (35), an Indian national. The 504 bottles of Phensedyl that the criminals were attempting to push across the border were also seized.

Jahangir, who has been handed over to the Krishnaganj police station with the bottles of cough syrup, admitted that there were nine others in the party who were involved in the attack.

The Commandant of 54 Battalion said that smugglers and border criminals want to kill BSF troops as they stand in their way.

“Our troops are ready to risk their lives to keep the border safe and prevent any crime,” he said.

But, is it worth dying for a problem that can be solved quite easily?

A few years ago, the government had banned cough syrups like Phensedyl that are of little therapeutic use. Companies – some of them international brands – manufacturing these cough syrups had then moved the court and obtained a stay.

Several MPs then urged the government to impose another ban. The Central government set up the M.S. Bhatia Committee to look into the matter, which recommended a ban on 14 products, including Phensedyl. It now remains to be seen how soon these recommendations are implemented.

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