KOCHI: The excise Crime Branch is grappling with a severe shortage of manpower, which has seriously affected its functioning. This couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time for the wing, since there has been a massive rise in the number of drug-related cases in the state. The Crime Branch wing was set up in 2019 to investigate sensational cases.
The shortage of hands means the officers are burdened with a heavy workload. Currently, the excise Crime Branch is headed by a joint excise commissioner at the regional level and the staff pattern comprises one assistant excise commissioner, two Circle Inspectors, three preventive officers, civil excise officers and drivers. It is learnt that there are only two officers each and drivers working with the three Crime Branch offices in Kochi, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram. The wing is currently investigating about 20 major cases.
In drug trafficking cases, the officers will have to go out of the state as part of the investigation. But this is often not possible due to the lack of staff. “There is a spurt in the number of narcotic cases in the state. While a chunk of the ganja is brought in from Andra Pradesh, MDMA and other synthetic drugs are sourced from Goa and Karnataka.
Hence, the officers have to go there for investigation,” said an official.Kerala Excise Staff Association state president K Ramesh said that the Crime Branch wing should be expanded to all districts, instead of functioning at the regional level.”We have already demanded that district units be set up so that the officers can act effectively during the current spike in the number of narcotic cases,” he said.
Meanwhile, Excise Commissioner S Ananthakrishnan denied that the functioning of the Crime Branch wing was affected in any way. “However, if the strength is increased, the wing can function more effectively. We have already decided to expand the wing which probes major cases,” he added.