As the entire state grapples with the threat of a second wave of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, the notorious guthka mafia continues with their money minting exercise by brazenly exploiting the rising demand for the banned substances. Sleuths of the Kashimira police have arrested a 22-year-old trader who used to purchase banned guthka products from Gujarat and smuggle the consignment into Thane and Mumbai via luxury passenger buses.
Acting on a tip-off, a police team led by API- Mahendra Bhamre kept a close watch on all passenger buses arriving into the city. The police team spotted a person alighting from a bus and unloaded five suspicious looking gunny bags at the Laxmi Baug bus stop. Upon checking the gunny bags were found to be stashed with sachets of guthka and other tobacco-laced products worth more than Rs.2.96 lakhs. Notably the accused who has been identified as-Salim Niyayat Khan (22) had tried to conceal the sachets with the help of saris.
Investigations revealed that Khan had purchased the consignment from a wholesaler in Vadodara in Gujarat and was headed to Null Bazar in Mumbai. It has been more than since Maharashtra enforced a blanket ban on the production, marketing and sale of gutkha and chewing tobacco products in July 2012.
However, the banned products are being sold openly in most of pan (betel) stalls located in each nook and cranny of Mira Road and Bhayandar, thus poking fun at the state government ban, even as officials from the local Food and Drug Authorities (FDA) and police personnel continue to turn a blind eye to the illegalities, for obvious reasons.
Meanwhile an offence under the relevant sections of the IPC and regulations of the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations has been registered against the accused.