The flourishing Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) trade across the border with Bangladesh has taken a huge hit in the past two days, following the Modi government’s demonetisation decision. While praising the security features of the new denominations for curbing the illegal business, the police in the Malda district of West Bengal, often regarded as India’s fake currency hotspot, have maintained that the strengthened security net along the India-Bangladesh border has also played an important role in this regard.
Since December 2015, the Centre has been closely working with neighbouring Bangladesh, training its security agencies to contain the smuggling of counterfeit notes.
The fake currency notes of Malda have been characterised for their extremely high quality. A senior police officer in the district has said, “It is impossible to detect a fake currency note with naked eyes.” “We suspect that the notes are printed in Pakistan and are then smuggled into India through Bangladesh. A number of factors – proximity to the border, easy access to weapons and presence of organized gangs – had facilitated the spreading of the illegal trade in Malda, creating an epidemic-like situation. If one person is arrested, another from his or her family resumes the work. In the absence of other livelihood opportunities, taking up the trade is an easy option,” said a CID officer in the state.
The NIA has been handed over at least eight cases of FICN smuggling since the Modi government came to power.
As per the NIA, the problem was not only the sheer number of fake Rs500 and Rs 1,000 notes being pumped into India, but also the high quality of these notes which replicated vital security features such as “the printing of the rupee symbol in the reverse side and the obverse of the note, the windowed magnetised security strip and the color changing threads.”
While speaking to Indian Express, a member of the FICN coordination committee, who did not wish to be named explained, “In order to ensure a permanent solution to the problem, two key factors will have to be taken into consideration. First, the security feature on the notes of Rs 2,000 denomination. It would be foolish to think that the notes cannot be replicated in time. But, the withdrawing of the Rs 500 and Rs1,000 currency notes will give us some time. The second factor is to ensure that the border areas between India and Bangladesh, which are porous and hence used for smuggling, need to be sealed.”
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A huge volume of FICN transaction is carried out through the India-Bangladesh border, which is corroborated by the a statistics. Since January the BSF seized FICN of the value of Rs 1,35,90,500 along with the arrest of 18 racketeers.
In 2015, the BSF’s South Bengal Frontier seized Rs 2,60,82,000 worth of FICN and apprehended 24 racketeers. According to security officials, the FICN trade is the financial “lifeline of terror modules” working in India.
“As there is heavy security in the border areas in the western sector, the eastern sector, for the past few years, has emerged as the hub of terror groups and a transit point for terror and FICN trade. The demonetisation will at least put a brake on the illegal trade,” an Intelligence Bureau official said.
Meanwhile, officers of the BSF – which had previously submitted a proposal to hasten the fencing of the porous border to the state government that had been derailed in 2009 – held a two-day conference with Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) on security issues, at the BGB headquarters in Khulna.
The 21-member Indian delegation, led by BSF Inspector General Kamol Nayan Chumbe, had reached the neighbouring country through Benapole border checkpost. Brigadier General Khalilur Rahman, commander of BGB’s south west region, was heading the 21-member BGB team in the meeting.
A senior BSF officer said, “Issues such as death of cattle smugglers, trespassing, smuggling of firearms, narcotics and human trafficking were discussed, but the focus was the issue of fake currency entering India through the border.”