Hyderabad Grapples with Rising Violence as PDS Rice Mafia Wars Escalate

As law enforcement agencies intensify efforts to combat drug-related crimes, a parallel threat has emerged in the form of organized gangs engaging in violent conflicts over the smuggling of rice designated for public distribution under the Public Distribution Scheme (PDS) in Hyderabad. The lucrative nature of the multi-crore business has spurred a surge in gang-related activities, leading to a rise in attacks, disputes, and even murders.

Hyderabad: PDS rice mafia engage in gang wars
Representational Image

While the police are preoccupied with tackling the drug trade, criminal organizations involved in the illegal transportation and sale of PDS rice have expanded their operations across Telangana and neighboring states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh. These gangs have developed sophisticated networks for collecting, storing, transporting, and marketing large quantities of rice intended for Below Poverty Line (BPL) families.

The intensity of gang rivalries recently reached a tragic climax in Santoshnagar in December when Tariq, a local political party functionary attempting to mediate a dispute between two rival gangs involved in PDS rice smuggling, fell victim to a fatal attack, according to police reports.

Instances of violence related to the illicit PDS rice trade are not isolated incidents. In 2018, Arshad Hussain of Cherlapally was murdered by Mohd Mahboob Hussain in Patancheruu over a smuggling dispute. In the following year, Hussain was allegedly eliminated in Rudraram, Patancheruu, by Arshad’s relatives with the help of hired killers, seeking revenge for the earlier killing.

Sources indicate that PDS rice smuggling has evolved into a highly profitable multi-crore business, with organized gangs operating through multiple layers. The process involves field groups collecting rice from ration shops or local beneficiaries at Rs 12 per kilogram. Subsequent groups stock the rice in warehouses, while others handle the sale to buyers and transport it to different states. The illicit trade reportedly involves payments to local leaders, YouTubers, police personnel, and civil supplies officials.

Social worker S A Raheem highlighted the financial implications, stating, “After calculating all the expenses, the rice is sold in other states in bulk for a price of Rs 28 to Rs 30. Some millers are also purchasing it in bulk, causing a substantial loss to the State exchequer.”

The lure of high profits has prompted these gangs to invest in transportation methods, including the purchase of old scooters and auto-rickshaws. Some groups have gone a step further, hiring transport auto-rickshaws and DCMs to smuggle PDS rice directly from the beneficiaries’ doorsteps to customers, further complicating law enforcement efforts to curb the illicit trade.

As the PDS rice mafia tightens its grip on the region, authorities face the challenging task of curbing violence, dismantling criminal networks, and safeguarding the welfare programs designed to support the vulnerable sections of society. The escalating gang wars over PDS rice smuggling present a concerning trend that demands urgent attention and coordinated efforts from law enforcement agencies.

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