With no stringent procedure to verify what goods are being loaded in long-distance trains, it seems the preferred choice to smuggle gutkha and paan masala into the state is the rail route.
Parcels and consignments dispatched via inter-state trains using false identities has become latest modus operandi among smugglers, according to railway authorities.
On Monday, Railway Protection Force (RPF) officials arrested a 38-year-old man after he collected a consignment containing gutkha pouches worth Rs 78,000, weighing 77 kg, from the parcel office at Pune railway station.
The parcel had arrived on the Nizamuddin-Goa Express at 6 pm, and the sender had scribbled ‘Bhola Paan Masala’, a mouth freshner, to hoodwink officials.
The arrested accused has been identified as Pradip Kapare, a resident of Junnar in Pune district, while the sender’s name was displayed as Iklakh on the parcel.
There was no address
or other details, through which the police could trace the sender. “Since gutkha is not banned in Delhi, it is hard to take action against the sender. Parcelled items are not thoroughly checked always. We found this haul during a surprise check as one of our personnel, who was patrolling at parcel office area, saw the accused carrying a sack.
The officer’s suspicions were aroused, and he impromptu asked for the package to be unwrapped,” said R S Meena, RPF inspector. “But the person was reluctant to open the sack. The officer then contacted us, and in the presence of two witnesses we opened the sack and were stunned to see pouches of ‘Goa Gutkha inside,” said Meena.
Kapre was arrested under the relevant sections of Railway and FDA Act. “During interrogations, he told us that this is the first time he ordered for the parcel, as he wanted to mint money by selling the packets loose at stores and paan shops in his village. He also informed us that he intended to sell the pouches at Rs 5 to Rs 7 each.”
Police said that Kapare did not fully cooperate during the investigation. “We suspect that he might have received similar parcels in the past,” said Meena. “Packages with bogus addresses have always been a bane. The rule stipulates that the package must have the addresses of both the sender and the receiver. But it is rarely followed.
It is hard to verify the addresses, even if they are mentioned because most of the times they are phony. The consignee usually do not claim packages if they realise that the officials are maintaining a vigil at the parcel office,” said Meena.
In July 2012, the state government issued a ban on gutkha and paan masala on grounds that the Food Safety and Standards Act prohibited any food item that contained tobacco.