Concern has been expressed over the sale and easy availability of banned substances, particularly pan masala, in the city and more significantly, the limited powers of enforcement authorities like the Excise department to initiate action in this regard.

Excise and Narcotic officials, along with members of a committee chaired by District Collector K.N. Satheesh, which met here on Friday to discuss the issue of bootlegging, illicit spirit, sale of narcotic substances and other Excise-related subjects, were told by a member about the availability of pan masala from the Chala market, with exact locations and the manner in which the banned stuff was smuggled here.

However, Excise officials, when asked about what action they could take in this regard, said their powers were limited to seizing such stuff during inspections at check-posts, and even then, they could not charge cases. All that they could do was to hand over the seized contraband and the carrier to the police or Food Safety officials, who would have to carry on with the rest of the procedures.

Though police and Food Safety officials were conducting raids at regular intervals, the pan masala menace was still large in the city, with the action so far against vendors and persons who smuggled these being ‘not deterrent enough’. Excise officials said they had communicated to the government to vest with them powers to take action on this issue as well.

The meeting, which decided to ask police and Food Safety officials to closely monitor the sale of pan masala and similar substances, also decided to keep an eye on and to take action against illegal sale of liquor in various parts of the district, while inspections to curb sale of illicitly brewed spirit would be intensified.

Deputy Excise Commissioner (Thiruvananthapuram) P.G. Pramod Chandran, Assistant Commissioner B. Suresh Kumar, Deputy Superintendent of Police (Narcotics, Rural) K. Raju and others were present.