Monday, May 9, 2011

Arms dealers mushrooming closer to Indo-Pak border

Times of India, 9th May 2011
FEROZEPUR: The border district of Ferozepur, rubbing its shoulder with Pakistan has emerged as a hub for issuing and procuring small and fake arms licenses.

The recent recovery of arms and a basketful of fake arms licenses from the houses of two arms dealersin Abohar town is just a tip of the iceberg- the nexus between the arms dealers and some government officials. 

The district gained notoriety in May 2000 whenDelhi and Haryana police arrested some criminals who had secured arms licenses from Ferozepur arms licensing authority under false addresses. The scam allegedly involving some political and other influential people rocked the then SAD-BJP state government. Later, a CBI inquiry into the scam had unearthed nearly 26000 dubious arm licenses which were issued by the licensing Authority without verifying the antecedents of the applicants. 

The district was once again in the thick of a similar controversy in July 2010 when some people were arrested for making fake arms licenses by forging the signature of the Additional District Magistrate. The district authorities have also been liberal in issuance of permits to arms dealers. 

As per the rules, a population of 50,000 is entitled to only one firearms dealership license. According to the recent census, the population of the district is around 20 lakh. As such the district should have only around 40 arms dealers. However, there are 55 arms dealers in the district- 39 dealers under license categories 11,12, and 14, and 16 under 13 and 14 categories. Most of these arms dealers are located at Ferozepur, Abohar, Fazilka, Jalalabad, Guruhar Sahai, Zira and Talwandi Bhai town. 

Last year, the district authorities issued nearly 836 new arm licenses. This is despite the new guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs to all district magistrates through the states regarding issuance of firearms licenses. The new guidelines recommend strict verification of the applicant and the licensing authority to maintain a database of all the licenses issued and to share the same with the Central government which shall maintain a national database. 

Kamal Kishor Yadav, Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Magistrate, Ferozepur claimed that strict measures were observed while issuing new arms license. Some licensee, who procure arms licenses from other states, are being verified individually, he said. 

Conceding that issuance of arms dealer licenses in such high numbers was a gross violation of the rules, he, however claimed that many arms dealers were not operative at the moment.

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