Hyderabad: Smuggled foreign cigarettes of various brands are being sold at the pan shops here, pointing to lax supervision.
The markets at Begum Bazaar, Siddiamber Bazaar, Sanathnagar, Osmangunj and Monda Market are the wholesale hubs of illegal foreign cigarettes which are smuggled into the country through the air and sea routes. Through the sea route they reach Gujarat and AP, and by air they reach Hyderabad via Hong Kong, Dubai, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
Indonesian brands Djarum Black and Gudang Garam are smuggled by organised syndicates. Apart from other violations, these cigarettes do not carry warnings or have only minimal cautionary messages unlike that stipulated under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules, 2006.
Several pan shops and small stalls in localities and crowded places are selling the smuggled cigarettes. They stock the packs in small numbers so as to escape police raids. At times, a vendor keeps less than five packets. “Last year following police crackdown, the supply was stopped by the distributors. A couple of months ago, they have again started supplying it,” said a pan shop owner in Secunderabad.
At Secunderabad and Mehdipatnam, the cigarettes are being openly without fear of the law enforcement agencies. Shopkeepers say that the cigarettes are preferred for their strong tobacco and lower price as the duties are not paid on import.
“Compared to Indian pricing, the smuggled cigarettes are cheaper as they are manufactured in other countries where there are no taxes or duties,” said an official of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence.
Recently, the Federation of All India Farmer Associations (Faifa), an organisation of tobacco farmers, said that smuggled cigarettes do not use Indian tobacco. Because of this Indian farmers have lost sales 16 million kg per annum. Due to the smuggling, there is a drop in revenue in the last three years to the farmers.
“About 25 billion sticks of cigarettes are being smuggled into the country, every year. This means farmers have lost demand for 16 million kg a year. This has resulted in drop in earnings of FCV tobacco farmers which have shrunk cumulatively by more than â‚¹3,650 crore in the last three years,” Faifa general secretary Murali Babu said.