The seizure of 400 cartons of unbilled hosiery material from the railway station on Wednesday has exposed the ‘peti mafia’ active under the apparent patronage of ‘influential’ persons of the city.
Surprisingly, city police, government railway police (GRP) and excise department have so far been unable to rein in the mafia that is brazenly causing damage worth crores to the state exchequer in form of the taxes evaded every year. The mafia allows unbilled goods to reach different destinations across the country through trains.
With the winter season approaching, the mafia has become even more active in Ludhiana with woollens meant to be sent to different corners of the country being manufactured in the city. According to sources, owners of hosiery units get in touch with the mafia that allows their goods to reach the railway station without paying any tax.
During a reality check, Hindustan Times found illegal cases filled with goods entering the railway station during early morning hours to avoid any hassles and also as there is lesser traffic on roads. The cases were brought to the railway station either on autos or rehris.
Sources inside the railway station said the mafia charged Rs 400-Rs 500 for entry of one case inside the station and its job ended once the cases reached the platform.
This raises questions on the role of the police, GRP and excise department, who have been unable to stop the movement of illegal goods.
It is learnt, the mafia has in the past attacked excise officials who tried to stop their working. In 2011, the mafia’s men attacked excise taxation officer DS Garcha while he was in his vehicle. A case under section 307 (attack with intention to kill) and 353 (disturbing official on government duty) of the Indian Penal Code was registered against seven members of the mafia.
When police tightened the noose around the mafia, they had shifted their base to smaller railway stations in the vicinity of Ludhiana, but soon returned to the Ludhiana railway station.
An official of the excise department, requesting anonymity, said mafia became very active in Ludhiana from August to November, as hosiery goods were sent to different states through trains during these months.
On Wednesday, when ETO Manmohan Singh and other officials of the excise department reached the railway station to inspect the cases kept at the godown, members of the mafia allegedly had an altercation with them pressuring them to recede. However, after police intervened, the excise officials started their investigation.