Gutkha traders, weary of ceaseless raids ever since state government banned the nicotine-laced substance, have found a workaround in tandem with smalltime sellers to keep the cash registers ringing, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Sharing information received by sources, FDA officials said that instead of stocking up gutkha packets at godowns and waiting for orders, the traders now dispatch requisite quantities directly to the shop owner or the end consumer only after receiving an order. This way, they do away with the hazard of storing the illegal substance and exposing themselves to raids and penalties, and avert the financial losses that seizures entail.
No more in stock
Officials said that a recent tip-off which culminated in a raid failed to yield a large recovery, since the amount of gutkha stashed away by the trader was insubstantial, all thanks to the new modus operandi.
“After investigating the matter, we came across the new modus operandi whereby gutkha traders are taking orders from small sellers, and accordingly delivering the demanded quantity. This minimises the risk of storage and all its possible consequences,” said Dilip Sangat, assistant commissioner, FDA (food), Pune Division.
Sangat continued, “Earlier, after getting information from sources, we’d raid the place. But to avoid this, these people have started getting orders from various sellers and end customers. After getting the order, they bring the exact amount. This method does away with storage, which is what mainly lands them in trouble if we raid the place.” Another FDA official said that gutkha purchased for sale and stored in warehouses invariably gets apprehended, resulting in losses for the traders.
In another recent raid during which officials seized gutkha worth Rs 76,800 in Pimpri, FDA came across another shocking fact. “When we reached the location given out by a source, we found out that it was a shop fronting as a garment store. After we searched the place, we realized there were no clothes there. But we found gutkha of RMD brand worth Rs 76,800. While we were expecting to recover a small quantity, we found a lump there,” said Sangat.
Rs 35 L
Value of gutkha batches seized by FDA in Pune since July this year
Rs 2.5 cr
Value of consignments seized since July 2012, when gutkha ban came into force