The parallel economy of angadias or local couriers runs as much on efficiency as on pure trust. It is on the integrity of this informal, hassle-free and reliable trade apparatus that crores in cash, diamonds and other gems have been traded every day for generations between Mumbai and Gujarat.
Until five years ago, the angadias would operate individually but with the recurrent assaults on deliverymen by robbers, the couriers decided to come together and send their parcels en masse through one channel of transport, under tight police vigil.
Daily, huge amounts of money, rough diamonds and other goods are picked up from traders and amassed at Gulalwadi -- the collection centre for all the accumulated wealth from the day’s trade at city’s diamond market Zaveri Bazaar. Here, the bounty, amounting to over Rs 500 crore a day, is loaded into some 20 trucks.
The vehicles make their way to Mumbai Central station, where the cargo is shipped through trains en route to various trade hubs in Gujarat, namely Surat, Ahmedabad, Vapi and Nadiad.
A source describing security arrangements for the system said, “Each police station on the way to Mumbai Central, that is VP Road, DB Marg, Nagpada and Tardeo, pocket huge amounts of cash. Every traffic constable keeping watch around Gulalwadi gets paid Rs 50 a day for each truck.”
Once the bounty is loaded onto a train bound for any of these locations in Gujarat, it’s the railway police’s turn to make money. The source said, “The two forces -- Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Government Police Force (GRP) -- are paid off in several lakhs, both to secure their protection and silence about the trade,” the source added.
On the other side of the border, the pick-up courier is accessible by a mobile number, which is given only to the drop-off man travelling in the train.
Owner of an angadia firm said, “The whole system is based on trust. The transactions are oral. Any calculations and computations are made on a chalkboard, which is quickly wiped out after the deal is done. Additionally, each courier is equipped with several money counting machines to speed things up.”