Surprise crackdown:Police vehicles parked outside the betel nut products manufacturing unit near Sulur in Coimbatore district on Saturday when the premises was raided.
650 kg of gutkha and 700 kg of pan masala confiscated from the premises at Kannampalayam
In an overnight operation, the Coimbatore district (rural) police seized stocks of gutkha and pan masala worth several lakhs of rupees from a betel nut (supari) products manufacturing unit at Kannampalayam near Sulur.
The police seized around 650 kg of gutkha of one brand, 6,000 sachets of which were stored in a carton. Around 700 kg of pan masala was seized from the unit. The police are yet to confirm if the pan masala contained tobacco.
The police said that Amit Jain of New Delhi was allegedly involved in the manufacture of the banned tobacco products at the unit on the pretext of manufacturing betel nut products.
Coimbatore Rural Superintendent of Police Pa. Moorthy said that a case would be registered against Mr. Jain and others under the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act on Saturday. Mr. Jain was not in Coimbatore at the time of the raid. The police said that the unit manager and three employees were detained.
According to the police, the unit located at Nallan Thottam near Kannampalayam was searched based on specific information from the police.
A team comprising senior police officers, personnel from the Prohibition and Excise Wing and the armed reserve, reached the factory around 7 p.m. on Friday. The search and seize operations continued till 11 a.m. on Saturday. Mr. Moorthy oversaw the raid. The unit was sealed after the raid in the presence of revenue officials.
Mr. Jain had reportedly purchased the property, spanning over five acres at Nallan Thottam, in 2010. It was earlier a textile unit.
Manufacturing of betel nut products started in 2011 and was stopped following a ban on gutkha in Tamil Nadu. However, the unit had allegedly resumed manufacturing of tobacco-based products.
No warning label
“The sachets of gutkha seized from the unit did not have a label warning about tobacco contained in them. Samples of the pan masala seized will be sent for clinical examination to confirm the presence of tobacco. We are investigating the difference found in stocks and the stock list,” said a police official.
Sources said that north Indians were employed at the unit and people in the locality were unaware of what was happening at the place.
A senior official from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) said that the unit was issued licence for the manufacture of non-tobacco-based products using betel nut.