Rajendra Shingane
Rajendra Shingane

Mumbai: Taking action against the sale of gutka in the state, the Food and Drug Authority Minister Rajendra Shingane has, in a first attempt of this kind, sealed his own department office in his home district Buldhana. The minister will be cross checking the quantity of gutka in all the godowns in the state against the quantity that was actually seized during raids, sending shock waves among the officers working in the department.

The production and sale of gutka is already banned in the state. Taking over the reins as FDA minister, Shingane had announced a crack down on gutka sellers and officials who helped them.

The minister had learned from his sources that some of the stock of gutka kept in the godown of the FDA office in Buldhana district and seized after FDA raids had gone missing. He inquired with the local police station whether any complaint of theft had been registered by FDA. He was informed that no such complaint had been filed.

"I was told that in order to show that action is being taken, officers raid shops or godowns where gutka is stored. They bring this stock into the godowns and then silently give them back to the earlier owners or to people who sell them in the market. But officials term this as theft in case anybody notices it. I was told that the gutka stock was 'stolen' but no complaint was registered," Shingane told FPJ.

The minister visited the godown along with the local police inspector and his team. "We found the godown unlocked. When I inquired, the officials claimed that there was no theft. I instructed the police officials to seal the godown and cross check the figure of the seizure of gutka in the raids from April 11, 2019, to January 24, 2020, and the actual stock in the godown," he added.

During primary investigation, the police found that the stock seized during the raids and the actual stock lying in the godowns do not matching. "The stock is less than was actually claimed to be seized. After the final investigation, if gutka is found to be missing, I will suspend the concerned officials," he said.

Shingane has decided to cross check the quantity of gutka lying in all the godowns in the state against the information of seizure mentioned on paper. "I will send FDA officials posted in Vidarbha to Konkan and Western Maharashtra. Officials will be sent to Vidarbha to cross check this," he said.

Currently, the process of destroying gutka is very cumbersome. The FDA has to get permission from the collector or the municipal commissioner to dump the seized stock in the dumping ground. If the stock is very big, then it is sent to FDA Pune office, where electrical incinerators are specially stationed to burn it. For this, the permission of the FDA secretary is also needed. "I am trying to simplify the approval process. The stock should be destroyed immediately to avoid any corruption," he said.

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