On September 8 and 9, the Sindhudurg Police was sent into a tizzy after local fishermen informed them of a number of sacks that had come floating at six different spots near Devgad, Vengurla and Malvan.
As the polythene sacks had the label ‘Pakistan Long Grain Rice’ on them, a wave of panic spread across the region, and Bomb Disposal and Detection Squad of the Sindhudurg unit had to be pressed into service.
After a thorough check, the officials declared that the sacks were free of explosives, and sent all the 69 packets (weighing 1 kg each), which they had found in the sacks, to the Pune Forensic Laboratory for tests.
Officials were aghast when the laboratory sent its report on September 14, stating that the packets contained hashish.
Sindhudurg Superintendent of Police Nandkumar Thakur confirmed that all the 69 packets contained the contraband drug. Sources say the recovered hashish is worth over Rs 55 lakh in the international market.
According to Sindhudurg Crime Branch officials, the hashish was packed in silver coloured airtight plastic pouches and had marking of Samarkhand, a village on Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Not for India
However, sources in the Central Excise Department claimed that it is unlikely that the contraband was destined for India, as goods bearing Pakistan labels are frisked thoroughly at all points.
“It’s quite possible that the vessel carrying the commodity from some port in Pakistan to African countries like Mombasa, Mozambique or Somalia may have drowned and the contraband had gone waterborne and reached our coast.”
While Thakur said, “It seems that due to the fear of being caught by the coast guards, the smugglers may have dumped the packets into the sea. Also, the consignment may have fallen into the sea during transportation.”
Looking at the packets, local fishermen said the sacks were in the sea for more than two months, as vegetation had grown on them. As a precautionary measure, Sindhudurg Police have started patrolling even when the sea is rough. Besides, the coast guard and fishermen have been asked to be extra vigilant and inform cops of any suspicious activity in the sea.