However, the kingpin, TRS alias Amritharaj (42) also known as Annachi and Irudaya James has been eluding the police for the past ten years.
Free rice supplied by the State government to residents of Tamil Nadu through the Public Distribution System (PDS) is being smuggled to Kerala through Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, and sold there for Rs. 12 per kilogram.
The smugglers use middle-aged women from Andhra Pradesh to buy the free rice for Rs. 2 per kg from villagers in Vellore, Tiruvallur and Krishnagiri districts. This is then sold to smugglers in Andhra Pradesh for Rs. 4. By the time it reaches Kerala, the price of the rice is Rs. 12 per kg.
“The women come into Tamil Nadu in the morning to sell vegetables and return with the PDS rice. A minimum of 10 women collect the rice at a time from the villages. Each woman carries 20 kilograms, the maximum monthly quantity allocated for a family in Tamil Nadu,” said an officer with the civil supplies CID cell.
Earlier, the women used to smuggle the rice in buses. But after enforcement was strengthened, they began using trains. “The women wait for the train to start moving and then jump inside. The rice is taken to Chittoor and then to Bangarapet in Kolar district in Karnataka for polishing,” said the officer.
Once it is polished, the rice is packed and sent to Kerala, via Bangalore and Mysore. “Each smuggler earns a profit of nearly Rs. 8 per kilogram. Recently, we booked a man, Jagadeesh Babu under the Prevention of Black Marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980. He was involved in polishing of the rice. He is one of the key players in the smuggling ring,” said the officer.
However, the kingpin, TRS alias Amritharaj (42) also known as Annachi and Irudaya James has been eluding the police for the past ten years. He has reportedly smuggled nearly 68 tonnes of PDS rice to Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka to date.
“TRS is a native of Tuticorin but operates from Nagari in Andhra Pradesh. He has been declared a proclaimed offender. Out of the 15 cases against him, 12 have been registered in Tiruvallur and the three others are in Chennai and Vellore,” said a senior police officer. Civil supplies CID officers will be seizing his property soon, the officer said.
The State government has announced the addition of 13 new civil supplies CID units and five special units to prevent smuggling of rice. “In the past two years we have booked most of the smugglers and will continue to pressure them,” said K. Radhakrishnan, ADGP, Civil Supplies CID.