Laws are meant to be broken, or so the transgressors would have you believe. Therefore, while the sale and consumption of gutkha and paan masala is prohibited in Maharashtra, that hasn’t stopped manufacturers from trying to push the products into the market through circuitous routes. In a recent raid carried out by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the help of Pune police in Guruwar Peth, gutkha worth Rs 1,70,000 was seized.
Officials also discovered that companies having manufacturing units in adjacent states are resorting to newer tactics to cover their tracks. For instance, this particular firm, which has its base in Gujarat – another state where guthka is banned –, is allegedly selling pouches meant for export within Maharashtra. Officials also revealed that the sachets did not mention MRP.
A different company, which has its centre of operations in Karnataka, has stopped publishing the address of its manufacturing unit. State FDA believes that all these tricks are aimed at misleading investigating agencies.
During the raid, FDA seized gutkha and paan masala worth Rs 2,30,440, of which gutkha of one particular company is valued at Rs 1,70,000. “The gutkha we seized is from various companies, but the majority of the consignment is from a Gujarat-based manufacturer.
It’s noteworthy that the gutkha sachets have ‘for export’ printed on them,” informed Dilip Sangat, assistant commissioner, FDA (food), Pune division. The agency also filed an FIR against Rajendra Haridas Navlakha from Guruwar Peth for allegedly selling gutkha.
Bearing in mind the ‘for export’ tag, FDA collected some more information. Sangat said, “We have got information that the manufacturer is from Baroda and he may have permission for exporting the product from the Gujarat to other countries.
But we found the merchandise here in Maharashtra. This is the second time that we have discovered gutkha with the ‘for export’ label. In the previous search, we had confiscated gutkha worth Rs 28,000. The company has made some changes in the packaging as well. When we checked packets seized from another raid, we found ‘Not for sale in India’ tags on them.”
Chew on that
Maharashtra banned gutkha in July 2012 for a year, and the order was later extended for another year. The prohibition was also placed on paan masala and scented tobacco. Since July last year, gutkha and paan masala worth Rs 2,40,70,455 has been seized.