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Illegal gun prices shoot up as Bengal polls near

Gun manufacturers are doing better business than ever this election season, and the hottest buys are 7-mm, 9-mm and 5-mm pistols – besides the good old ‘one-shotter’

india Updated: Mar 28, 2016 12:35 IST
Ravik Bhattacharya
The illegal arms market is witnessing high inflation due to the demand created by political parties. A file photo of illegal country made firearms recovered by the police.
The illegal arms market is witnessing high inflation due to the demand created by political parties. A file photo of illegal country made firearms recovered by the police. (File photo)

In West Bengal, you know that the polls are just round the corner when the demand for illegal arms soars. Gun manufacturers are doing better business than ever this election season, and the hottest buys are 7-mm, 9-mm and 5-mm pistols – besides the good ol’ one-shotter.

Sources say that the illegal arms market is witnessing high inflation due to the demand created by political parties. “The demand has skyrocketed in the poll season. Whether it’s political leaders, their goons or even teenage toughies in the neighborhoods, everyone wants to own a handgun now. The prices have almost doubled in comparison to the Lok Sabha polls in 2014,” said a prominent dealer from South 24 Parganas.

While orders pour in every day, frequent raids by the police make the business particularly risky. “All these factors have led to an unprecedented price hike. And it’s only likely to go up further,” the dealer said.

Earlier, gun runners in the state had to largely depend on arms and ammunition manufacturers in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. However, with many manufacturing units sprouting up across the state in recent times, procurement of firearms is no longer a hassle.

According to market sources, one-shotters come with two kinds of mechanisms – the low quality pin system and the superior quality push system. While the cost of these guns has jumped from Rs 3,000 to Rs 8,000, sixers – which can fire six rounds without loading – are no longer in vogue due to the difficulty in procuring their bullets.

The price of a 7-mm gun has jumped by nearly 75% – from Rs 20,000 in 2014 to Rs 35,000 now. The price of 9 mm guns, on the other hand, had jumped from Rs 30,000 to over Rs 50,000 per piece.

Read: Gun Rajya: Armed and dangerous for fighting elections

Handguns usually come in two types – a low quality one where the empty cartridge drops from the side and a superior kind where it pops out from the top. While the low quality handgun is liable to jam up occasionally, sellers guarantee the smooth functioning of the superior variety – which costs anywhere between Rs 40,000 and Rs 60,000 per piece. Though small easy-to-handle 5-mm guns that cost around Rs 25,000 are also favoured, dealers say that 7-mm guns are the most popular due to the easy availability of their bullets.

Bullet prices have also shot up since 2014. While the price tag of a cartridge for the 9-mm pistol has risen from Rs 400 to Rs 1,000 (it comes in boxes of 20), a bullet meant for the 7-mm gun costs Rs 500.

“Though illegal arms manufacturing units have mushroomed across Bengal – especially Howrah, Malda, Murshidabad, North and South 24 Parganas – prices have shot up instead of coming down. Both police raids and an increase in the number of middlemen is responsible for this,” said another dealer from North 24 Parganas.

Arms manufacturers rarely sell their products to the public. A gun usually comes through six to seven middlemen before being sold, effectively pushing up its price.

“We bring expert gun-makers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, and pay them Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 per day for their work,” said the owner of a Howrah arms manufacturing unit.

Country-made rifles have also become dearer in the run-up to the elections. While the price of a single-barreled rifle has leapfrogged from Rs 20,000 to Rs 45,000, a double-barreled one can cost as much as Rs 75,000.

The West Bengal legislative assembly elections, to be conducted in two phases, will be conducted from April 4 to May 5.