How gutka worth Rs 60 crore is smuggled into Mumbai
Gutka is brought into the city by truckers and bikers. Pic/ Getty images
The Mumbai police's crime branch has lifted the lid on a gutka mafia racket with the detention of three people, who revealed how Rs 60 crore consignment of the banned product is being smuggled into the city each month. While Maharashtra became the first state to ban gutka in July 2012, these products continue to arrive in the state from Gujarat, thanks to the chicanery of kingpins, who work from within control rooms and use GPS technology to monitor truck drivers and bikers who transport the illegal goods into the city.
Informer tells crime branch cops of consignment arriving in Dahisar
The racket came to light after the crime branch detained a tempo driver Janardan Bharti, 22, and two others, Prahlad Kamutkar, 22, and Mohd Sahzad Siddique, 25, involved in transporting gutka worth Rs 3 lakh.
The police had previously received a tip-off about the kingpins using different modus operandi to smuggle gutka into the city. In the past, gutka has been transported via inter-state trains.
Cops and informer follow the tempos carrying the banned products
On Tuesday, an informer told crime branch officials that one such consignment was on its way into Mumbai via Dahisar. Since it was impossible for the police to reach Dahisar at such short notice, they asked the informer to keep a tab on the consignment, while the team left from south Mumbai and joined him somewhere on the Western Express Highway.
According to the informer, five small tempos with the consignment reached Dahisar checknaka. The informer decided to follow these tempos in his car. After covering a distance of almost 16 km, the accused, realising that they were being followed, started driving in different directions to mislead the informer. "When they reached Jogeshwari flyover, two tempos took the flyover, while the remaining drove from under the bridge. The informer decided to take the flyover. At Andheri flyover, the accused tried to trick him once again. But, by then, we joined the chase," said Rajendra Trivedi assistant commissioner of police, crime branch.
Tempo driver tries to hoodwink police near Sakinaka junction
Trivedi added that when they neared the congested Sakinaka junction, the officials lost track of one of the tempos. "We decided to abandon our vehicles and check the tiny lanes of the industrial units as we were confident that the vehicles must have not gone too far," he said.
The police team finally saw one of the tempos in a narrow lane in Sakinaka and recovered around 12 bags of gutka.
The accused were later detained and after interrogation, handed over to the FDA for further investigation.
Cops finally manage to trace tempo with goods; detain three people. Graphic and illustration/Ravi Jadhav
Interrogation of the three accused helped the police get details of the new route adopted by the gutka mafia to smuggle in the consignment from Gujarat into Mumbai.
According to Trivedi, the illegal consignment is first loaded into a heavy truck escorted by four bikers -- two in the front and two behind. The bikers keep a watch for police officers or any nakabandi on the road.
This truck makes a pit stop at Vasai or Kashimira, where it is offloaded into a secret godown. From here, it is then transported into Mumbai via small tempos. The mafia had set-up control rooms at Kashimira, where they monitored the location of these tempos using GPS technology. "In case a tempo halted at a particular place for more than five minutes, they would immediately ask other tempo drivers to change the route," an official said. The gutka was mainly transported to three spots in Mumbai -- Nul Bazaar, Amboli and Sakinaka.
According to the police, there are three key people, who run the entire syndicate. One man identified only as Shafi arranges the consignment in Gujarat, Akram Patel is responsible for transporting it, while Rajesh Wala handles the distribution in the city. The police are yet to trace and arrest the accused. "These people send around 50 tempos to Mumbai daily. One tempo carries consignment worth R4 lakh each," said Trivedi, adding that around R60 crore worth gutka is transported into the city each month.
Maharashtrawas the first state to ban gutka and pan masala in July 2012. Though the ban was challenged by the gutka industry in the Bo
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mbay High Court, they did not get any relief.