Western UP districts - known for manufacturing illicit firearms - have also emerged as a major supply centre to Haryana, Delhi, and other states as well as countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh.
The police say more than 10,000 people are arrested every year from Meerut, Ghaziabad, Bulandshahr, Gautam Budh Nagar, Baghpat, Saharanpur and Muzaffarnagar for the manufacturing and supply of illegal firearms. Recently, seized arms and ammo include .32-bore revolvers, 9mm pistols, 9mm and AK-47 cartridges.
"Recent seizures in Bareilly and Meerut suggest that these pockets have a thriving market for the stuff manufactured in Bihar's Munger," said a top police official. "With a high population inflow from the western region to Delhi and Haryana, smuggling is easy," he added.
This is a cause for concern. Rajeev Krishna, senior IPS officer who has served in Meerut, said, "Only 20-25% crimes of passion are committed with licensed firearms. All major crimes are committed with illegal weapons - either countrymade or factory made, but not licensed."
The figures provided by the National Crime Record Bureau suggest that more than 80% murders, in which firearms have been used, involve the use of illegal weapons. The UP police book more than 80,000 people - most of them from west UP - under the Arms Act every year.
Anant Deo, who has served as the SP of Noida and Meerut, said, "Rapid urbanisation in west UP is breeding crime. The region's proximity to countries such Nepal and Bangladesh - which also have a good market - is another reason. Agrarian castes have earned much wealth by selling farmland for realty projects. This has fuelled the sale of firearms."
"Gangs find it lucrative to set up base in the area and cash in on the booming kidnapping industry. Loot and contract killing are as paying. Gangs have led to wars of attrition and hiring of shooters, further fuelling the demand for firearms" said a serving officer in Noida. "Big gangs use factory made, but not licensed guns.
They use the most common .32 bore and rare varieties of .38 and .45 bores," Krishna said. "Not much skill is required to make the .312 bore single-fire pistol.
Though its multiple-round versions are being produced rapidly as illustrated by recent recoveries in Ferozabad, most countrymade firearms in UP are low-tech, with mostly .315 and .12 bore pistols in circulation," he said.
"The problem is firearms, unlike most other commodities, are non-perishable and the average 400 new licences in a district per year are only adding to the existing number," he said.
Each part of a gun is made separately and assembled later. Consignments are prepared on demand. There is not much stock. Crude material, including water pipes and steering wheels, is used. There are several gangs that make cartridges with gunpowder meant for firecrackers and chemicals used in detergent.
New supply chain:
West UP is a major supply centre to Haryana, Delhi and other states as well as countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh. These pockets have a thriving market for "stuff" manufactured in Bihar's Munger district. These centres also make.315 and .12 bore pistols in different barrel lengths.
Radhane in Meerut, Khurja, Dadri, Ghaziabad, Budhana, Shamli and Saharanpur areas are said to have thriving factories. But Muzaffarnagar takes the cake. Thousands of people are involved in the cottage industry. Rackets, supplying these arms to Haryana and Delhi, parts of UP, have often been busted.
Obstacles for police:
The major obstacle for the police is the fact that the production takes place in interiors - often jungles. The hideouts keep changing. Besides, there is no consolidated database. The police in Meerut may not know what's happening in Muzaffarnagar. There are instances where the lower-rung police staff has connived. Those found involved get bail easily.