PANDM bans betel leaf trade, demands action

IMPHAL, 4th Apr: Taking serious note of airlifting of betel leaves even as the state is waiting for supply of medical items and essential commodities, People’s Action for National Democratic Movement (PANDM) has banned betel leaf trade and urged the government to take up necessary actions to stop such irresponsible activities during the crisis.
In a statement, PANDM informed that three flights of Spice Jet, Air Asia and Indigo landed at Imphal airport on Saturday among which two flights were transporting exclusively betel leaves from Kolkata to Imphal. It is questionable how the traders were able to penetrate through the robust lockdown protocol, which even causes unwanted delay in transportation of essential commodities and medical items like LSDs, PPE and others.
According to reliable source, the cost of hiring a flight from Kolkata to Imphal is Rs 20 lakh and the traders must have spent Rs 40 lakh to hire the two flights and transport 250 baskets of betel leaves. On the other hand, one basket of betel leaves cost Rs 26,000 and the total cost of the consignment is around Rs 65 lakh. As the betel leaves are sold at the minimum rate of Rs 6000, the traders would be collecting nearly Rs 5 crore from the consignment, the statement said and added that collecting such huge amount of profit amid the hardships faced by the people due to the lockdown is unwarranted.
Four vans have escaped with full loads of betel leaves shortly after the flight arrived before anybody could act. However, lifting of the remaining consignments from the airport was stopped after PANDM members reached there. Upon enquiry, it was found that non-local suppliers from Kolkata namely Dharma and Subhash sent the consignment to one Thingujam Kamo and they were lifted by one Chara Singh. The consignments were sent in the name of different individuals including Mamta, Sachin, Kishore, Jakku, Surjit, Moti, R, BKS, ATR, and Binoy, the statement said.
It also maintained that sending the consignment amid the lockdown is a challenge not only to the people of the state but also to the state government. Several natives of the state are spending tough times in different states across the country including some pilgrims in UP. Distribution of PDS rice has been an issue in the state. However, the traders penetrated through the tight security measures of lockdown to airlift the non-essential commodity, which is a serious matter that needs swift action to plug the flaw in the lockdown system.
As some loads of betel leaves have already been lifted from the airport, several people will now start standing in queue in front of paan shops flouting the social distancing call. The situation might even lead to family crisis, it cautioned and demanded the government to trace the lifted consignments and stop them from sale. It also demanded public disposal of the seized consignment while drawing attention of the CM in this regard.

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