Updated: November 5, 2021 11:45:27 am
The Pimpri-Chinchwad police has seized banned gutkha and paan masala worth Rs 8.7 crore in 161 cases of seizures since January 2020 and arrested 251 suspects, including racketeers, suppliers and distributors.
Pimpri-Chinchwad Police Commissioner Krishna Prakash said, “We have observed that most of the gutkha and paan masala comes from Gujarat and Karnataka, where it is not banned. This situation makes it difficult to enforce the ban. We will continue to be vigilant and take action against the racketeers and distributors.”
In 2012, the state government imposed a ban on consumption, production, sale, distribution and storage of gutkha, paan masala and other related products, considering several proven health hazards. This ban was further renewed in 2019. The state police and the Food and Drug Administration have powers to seize and conduct raids in connection with gutkha and paan masala.
While the ban remains in force across the state, its level of enforcement varies widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Officials from Pimpri-Chinchwad police said when Krishna Prakash took charge as Police Commissioner of Pimpri-Chinchwad, he had given clear directions to crack down on several types of illegal businesses, including storage, transport and distribution of gutkha and paan masala. Since then, coordinated action has been taken across the jurisdiction.
In 2020, the Pimpri-Chinchwad police seized gutkha and paan masala worth Rs 5.15 crore. The same substances worth Rs 5 lakh and Rs 4 lakh were seized in 2018 and 2019 respectively, as per data shared by the police. Officials said much of the action in 2020 had been taken after September. Till the end of October this year, gutkha worth Rs 3.55 crore has been seized in 111 cases in which 181 people have been arrested.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Prashant Amrutkar said, “Among those arrested are distributors, transporters and racketeers behind the trade of these banned products. While the data shared pertains to only the value of seized gutkha and other products, we have also seized several vehicles and other things used by the racketeers in these actions.”
Another senior official said, “That there is continuous supply of gutkha implies two things — there is demand and there are several lapses on the state border where vehicles carrying large quantities of gutkha and paan masala are allowed to pass. These products are available at paan shops and small roadside shops, which suggests there is a network of distributor. We will continue to conduct these actions to put a check on the trade and distribution of the banned items.”
Over the past few years, the state government has taken two important decisions towards the crackdown against gutkha. First is invoking Section 328 of the Indian Penal Code, which pertains to administering or causing to administer poisonous substance. The second decision is invoking the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against the gutkha racketeers.
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