An extortion “nexus” in West Bengal’s Jaigaon, believed to be operating with the help of officers in the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), has allegedly been targeting Bhutan’s exports to India, like vegetables and fruits, as well the country’s imports, ThePrint has learnt. Although Bhutan has not officially taken up the matter with India on a bilateral level, officials have told ThePrint that extortion incidents are common at border posts and this case, like many others, is under investigation. Jaigaon, a small town located in Alipurduar district in West Bengal, borders Phuentsholing town of Bhutan. Speaking to ThePrint, a senior West Bengal police officer in the Alipurduar district said: “These sort of allegations are regular and these keep coming from the exporters on both sides. We investigate as and when we get those and take action. The specific case, registered more than a week ago, is now being investigated.” The officer added: “Allegations of high-handedness or extortion against the border guarding forces are generally handled by the force internally. We cannot comment on the SSB personnel’s case. They have a protocol in the force and they investigate their people on their own. These kinds of processes take time.”
According to a second official source in the Alipurduar district, such local border incidents have become regular now owing to Bhutan closing its borders due to the Covid-19 pandemic on 23 March 2020. As a result of which, goods get stuck there.