iconimg Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ravik Bhattacharya, Hindustan Times
Kolkata, June 24, 2013
With panchayat and Lok Sabha polls knocking on the door, there is a race for illegal firearms in Bengal, which has led to a price rise in the most ‘deadliest’ of businesses. As demand soars, the price for bullets and bombs used by criminals backed by political parties has skyrocketed. The price of ‘one shotter’ has jumped from Rs. 2,500 to Rs. 5,000. For ‘sixers’ the price tag has jumped from Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 25,000. Prices have also gone north for 9mm handguns, bullets and crude bombs.

“The demand is huge this time. Apart from ‘one shotters’ and ‘sixers’, orders are pouring in for 7mm and 9 mm handguns. There is also demand for crude bombs and bullets. However, supply is limited and the police have cracked down on arms factories. We have no option but to increase prices,” said Rashid (name changed), a Howrah-based dealer of illegal arms and ammunition.

“People backed by all political parties are now placing orders in bulk. Such is the demand that now we have to depend on arms and ammunitions from other states. So the prices have risen. But it is not deterring customers,” said Shankar (name changed), a dealer from the southern fringes of Kolkata.

For 7mm and 9 mm handguns, which are indigenously built, the prices have shot up from Rs. 26,000 to over Rs. 40,000 per piece. Sources said the demand is high in districts like Murshidabad, Malda, Burdwan, Hooghly, North and South 24-Parganas, where opposition is strong and clashes are expected.

Price of bullets has also risen sharply. Bullets like .35, which used to cost Rs. 150 per piece is now priced around Rs. 350. Price for .22 has risen from Rs. 300 to Rs. 450. Similarly, a .38 bullet will now cost Rs. 500 from Rs. 300 a few months back. Crude bombs, used to disperse crowds or create panic, are in high demand in the districts. Priced earlier at Rs. 250 per piece are now going at Rs. 350 to Rs. 400.

“Now we rarely make ‘Petos’. Now ‘Lalsada’ bomb which has more firepower, is the popular choice. ‘Hajmola’ (powder packed in Hajmola bottle) and ‘Dibba’ (small steel boxes of any kind) are also popular. Bombs are going at Rs. 400 per piece. However, if one buys in bulk, the price is reduced,” said Amlan (name changed), a bomb-maker from Metiabruz.

Interestingly, charges for hiring a bomb maker have also risen sharply, since they are in high demand. Usually, they used to charge Rs. 4,000 to Rs. 5,000 for handling 20 kg of gunpowder or ‘atta’.

“Now we are not available for anything less than Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 15,000 plus tiffin allowance. The risk is high. If I get injured or die it is my responsibility,” said Sajid (name changed) a bomb-maker from Murshidabad.