Arunachal PWD engineer held with 43 live cartridges at airport

NAGPUR: Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel nabbed a 46-year-old assistant engineer with the public works department ( PWD) of Arunachal Pradesh while he was trying to board an early morning flight to New Delhi with 43 live cartridges at Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport on Sunday morning.

Kardo Riba was later handed over to the Sonegaon police station where he was booked under the Arms Act. He was carrying 26 cartridges of .22 bore, eight of .32 calibre and another nine of 12 bore. An empty .22 bore magazine was also seized from him.

Riba was on his way back to Assam after dropping his daughter, who is a first year student at the Government Engineering College, Chandrapur. The airport security detained him while scanning his luggage in the X-ray machine. The batteries of a calculator first attracted the attention of CISF personnel, who started checking his luggage and came across the pouch with the cartridges.

Apart from police, other security agencies are also likely to quiz the government official travelling from strife-torn north east to Chandrapur, which is considered the urban hub of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), popularly known as Naxals, in eastern Vidarbha.

Riba claimed that security personnel at Dibrugarh airport and also at Kolkata's Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport did not raise any objections. He was able to board the connecting domestic flights to reach the city from Assam.

He said that the cartridges had been kept in the back by mistake, and were procured through bona fide means. Police said Riba's arms license was valid till 2008 and had not been renewed. One of Riba's close kin is also a senior police officer, who spoke to Sonegaon police station officials to vouch for him.

Riba claims to have boarded a flight from Dibrugarh in Assam to reach Kolkata On November 4, from where he reached the city at 8pm by flight with his daughter, who was returning to college after the Diwali vacation. He travelled to Chandrapur in a hired a car. The following day, Riba reached Nagpur in the evening and checked into a hotel at Dhantoli.

"My wife had packed the cartridges by mistake and there was nothing malicious about it. I had been recently transferred, so a lot of luggage was misplaced. The cartridges were in the clothes," Riba told TOI.

"I too did not have any idea that the cartridges were with me. Twice I was checked by airport officials but no one objected till now," he said. Riba said he has been using the Smith & Wesson pistol since the early 90s and the 12 bore rifle from around the same time.

Senior police inspector Arun Rautewar said Riba claimed that it was standard practice to pay late fee and renew the licenses. "It was a mistake," he said.