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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Mumbai: Robbery bid throws spotlight on Angadia system and its challenges

When the system evolved in the 19th century, it was run by men from the Patel community from Mehsana, who would ferry goods between Mumbai and parts of Gujarat. As the business grew, it saw the entry of members of other communities including Marwaris from Rajasthan and Malabaris from Kerala.

Written by Jayprakash S Naidu | Mumbai |
Updated: March 7, 2021 8:40:16 pm
Mumbai robberyWhile the Angadia charges a nominal fee of around Rs 2,00 per Rs 1 lakh of the value of goods, he ends up providing an insurance of about 70-80 per cent of the value of the goods in case the parcel is lost.

It was once deemed to be one of the most trustworthy courier systems in the country. However, an alleged attempt by a group of Angadias to rob Rs 12 crore last month has raised doubts in the minds of some of its clients about the safety of the nearly century-old system.

The Angadia system, which derives its name from the carriers or “Angadias”, as they are known in Gujarati, involves people largely from Gujarat’s Mehsana, who would transfer valuables including cash, jewellery or important documents for a fixed charge.

When the system evolved in the 19th century, it was run by men from the Patel community from Mehsana, who would ferry goods between Mumbai and parts of Gujarat. As the business grew, it saw the entry of members of other communities including Marwaris from Rajasthan and Malabaris from Kerala.

“I am from Gujarat and my Angadia is fixed. He has never cheated me. There is, however, a proliferation of newcomers in this profession. While they offer cheaper rates, the risk is high while dealing with new Angadias,” said a diamond trader from Malad, who has been using the services of Angadias for three decades.

The system is largely based on trust, with the client handing over valuables or cash to Angadias without any written agreement between them. While the Angadia charges a nominal fee of around Rs 2,00 per Rs 1 lakh of the value of goods, he ends up providing an insurance of about 70-80 per cent of the value of the goods in case the parcel is lost.

Offices of agencies providing Angadia services are located in a cul-de-sac in areas like Fofalwadi in Bhuleshwar and Malad and hence provide safety and secrecy, which are of paramount importance in the trade.

“There is no scope for mistrust among my customers as I have developed a bond with them over 20 years. I have few men working for me, and they are related to me,” an Angadia said.

Jewellers and diamond traders reportedly widely use the Angadia services. However, the Mumbai Jewellers’ Association and diamonds association based in Zaveri Bazaar and Dhanji street refused to comment.

A senior businessman based in Zaveri Bazaar said, “Angadias run a legitimate business. Thousands of people use this service. Angadias and jewellers and traders have built a bond of trust over several years. If an Angadia cheats a trader or businessman, then he is blacklisted by the Angadia community.”

However, many agreed that the business is changing. Demonetisation, the push for a cashless economy and an increasingly penetrative eye of authorities on large cash transactions have put pressure on the system.

While what happened last month is deemed by many to be a rare instance, many clients believe that the system will adapt to changing times.

Last month, a group of people were arrested for allegedly trying to launder Rs 12 crore to Canada with the help of an Angadia. The money belonged to Chandigarh-based Dinesh Dureja (54), one of those arrested.

Vile Parle police told the Andheri magistrate court that Dureja wanted to use Angadia services in Mumbai to evade tax. Dureja, through his aides, allegedly got in touch with an Angadia in Malad (east). Some of the accused then decamped with the Rs 12 crore. The police are on the lookout for them.

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