THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: State’s second largest checkpost at Amaravila is witnessing an alarming rise in the smuggling of contrabands, mainly ganja. About 18 kg ganja was among the illegal goods seized at the checkpost during the past three months.Other major items smuggled through the busy checkpost are gold and unaccounted money. Latest and the biggest haul in recent times was made on Sunday, when British Pound to the tune of Rs 3.30 crore was seized from a Ghana national.
According to Excise circle inspector Rajan Babu, Amaravila is a preferred route of smugglers due to the heavy flow of vehicles. “Other checkposts in South Kerala do not have a rush like Amaravila. In those places the chances for the vehicles getting inspected is high,” he said. On an average around 3,000 vehicles pass into Kerala through Amaravila. Also this route has the maximum number of inter-state public transport buses and private services.
Smugglers prefer public transport buses, especially the state-run ones, since they are not subjected to inspection in order to avoid harassing commuters. “Now, we do not spare state-run buses, belonging to both Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Also, we are resorting to frequent change in timings, which means the team would examine random vehicles at any hour of the day,” Rajan Babu said. Amaravila is also a transit point and at least 50 private luxury buses pass through the checkpost to and from various destinations like Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad. The Ghana national was held from a Bangalore-Thiruvananthapuram service.
Of the 18 kg ganja, 4 kg was seized from a passenger on a KSRTC bus and another 4 kg from a Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation bus. Recently, Commercial Taxes department had seized 8 kg sandalwood from an abandoned bag on a TNSTC bus.There has also been an increase in the number of gold smuggling cases booked by the Excise and Commercial Taxes departments. Excise department alone seized 19 kg of gold in the past three months.
Lure of Ganja
Amaravila is South Kerala’s ganja gateway due to the large number of public transport buses plying towards Tamil Nadu. Officials said smugglers usually travel in state-run buses with the package kept under the seat or on the rack.“In most cases none would claim ownership of a package seized. We would detain suspects and allow the bus to continue onwards. Sometimes the accused are identified after hours of interrogation,” Excise circle inspector Rajan Babu said. Ganja trade is lucrative since the smugglers get at least ten times the return for a kg.
Those booked for ganja smuggling have confessed to the officials that they buy the weed for Rs 2,500 to Rs 4,000 per kg from certain places in Tamil Nadu like Usilampatti. The price in Kerala is Rs 20,000 per kg. The profit doubles when sold in retail. Retail trade in small packets would fetch Rs 40,000 to Rs 45,000 for a kg. Those booked for ganja smuggling in the recent past were youths in the 20 to 30 age group. They told officials that it was meant for retail sales at their native places - Chirayinkeezhu, Chakkai and Vizhinjam. Over 10,000 packets of banned tobacco products were seized during the past three months. Tobacco products are mostly transported on two-wheelers.