FDA forms flying squad to check gutkha, paan masala smuggling

Masala

In an attempt to check smuggling of gutkha and paan masala from other states, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has appointed a special flying squad to inspect private vehicles and trains entering Maharashtra.

On Friday, FDA inspectors had seized gutkha worth Rs 22 lakh in the luggage compartment of the Pushpak Express at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). A total of 43 jute bags filled with packets of a prominent gutkha brand were found. Officials said the boxes said manufactured in Uttar Pradesh and had been loaded in Lucknow. However, they added that smuggling was part of a large commercial operation.

"Following the ban of gutkha and paan masala in Maharashtra, chances of the goods being smuggled from other states are high. Our teams have been posted at critical sites such as railway stations and at bus terminuses. There will be special focus on private vehicles like carrier vans and buses," said G V Jagtap, assistant commissioner (food), FDA. He added that in case the banned substances are found in any of the vehicles, FDA will file a complaint against the owner of the vehicle.

Since the ban came into force in July, FDA has seized gutkha and paan masala worth Rs 1.7 crore from the city. After much debate on ways to dispose of the seized goods, FDA decided that the stock will be taken to the solid waste management plant in Pune, where it will be incinerated and the energy emitted will be used to generate electricity. On Monday, a team of assistant commissioners from the city will visit the plant in Pune, the only one-of-its-kind in the country. The Pune Municipal Corporation has already done the same with the stock it seized over the past few months.

"Earlier, we had thought of destroying the stock at the incinerator at Mankhurd. However, we were being charged Rs 26 per kg by the incinerator company, which is just not feasible. Moreover, if the stock has to be destroyed, it would be better to do it in a productive manner," Jagtap said.

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