Imported firearms are quickly becoming an endangered species in Mumbai as locally made illegal guns, or ‘desi kattas’, achieve greater sophistication thanks to improved trigger mechanisms and better barrel groves. The illegal factories that produce these weapons are rarely busted as the apprehended gun runners are quickly let out on bail, and this has helped them produce more sophistication firearms, police officials said.
Senior police officers said sections 3 and 25 of the Arms Act, under which gun runners are booked, are bailable offences. “Whenever a person possessing an illegal weapon is caught and produced in court, he is let off. When arms suppliers such as Nagendra Sahani, 28, who has been booked in 22 cases in Mumbai and Thane, get bail, it sets a bad precedent,” said a crime branch officer, who did not wish to be named.
Officials said that since gunner runners are the first point in the weapons supply chain, getting custody of them is crucial to busting the racket. However, as they have no trouble getting bail, the larger racket is never exposed.
Over the past couple of years, Madhya Pradesh has replaced Uttar Pradesh as the primary supplier of country-made firearms. Officials said the weapons are mostly made in Barwani and Khargone districts of MP.
“Communities such as Barela and Shikalgar are involved in the production of firearms. Over time, their skills have improved and they now make impeccably designed guns with the help of lathes, which can be operated by anyone with basic training,” said a police officer, who did not wish to be named.
The proliferation of these sophisticated weapons has also drawn the attention of naxals. “For a long time, naxals had their own factories to produce crude firearms. Then came a phase in which they acquired firearms from abroad. Now, however, they are switching to country-made made weapons, which are easily available,” the officer added.
Pujari guns traced to MP supplier
In late 2014, after the crime branch arrested 14 shooters of fugitive gangster Ravi Pujari, who had hatched a plan to kill movie producer Karim Morani and producer-director Mahesh Bhatt, the firearms trail led the police to Madhya Pradesh. Crime branch officers had seized six firearms and 27 live rounds from the accused. The weapons were supplied by one Sarwar Singh, who is still on the run. Singh, who operates from the jungles around the Mumbai-Agra highway near the Maharashtra-MP border, is also wanted by the Delhi police’s special cell and the UP police in separate arms supply cases. He also faces charges in the Bhatt-Morani case.
Better, faster, more powerful
* From January to July 2015, the Mumbai police seized 47 firearms and 145 cartridges and arrested 58 people
* In the same period in 2014, they seized 50 firearms and 163 cartridges and arrested 46
* Older country-made guns or ‘desi kattas’ had raw designs basic trigger mechanisms as they were made using welding machines
* They came mainly from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand
* They were later replaced with guns that had better fire power and accuracy. These ‘factory-made firearms’ are mainly produced in Madhya Pradesh
* They have better groves, barrels, muzzles, magazines and trigger mechanisms, and more power
* They are less likely to get jammed or even explode, as older country-made guns often do.