You must have read the news of adulteration of spices, but you may not have heard of a fake cumin factory before. Delhi Police has busted a factory of the type in Bawana where a lookalike product was being manufactured using wild grass (which is used to make phūl jhādu or heavy grass broom), molasses and stone powder. This fake cumin was not only supplied in large quantities to Delhi but also distributed in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and other cities.
The police have arrested five suspects running the factory in Bawana. They have been identified as Harinandan, Kamran alias Kammu, Ganga Prasad, Harish and Pawan, all residents of Jalalabad — Uttar Pradesh.
Police have recovered 19,400 kg of fake cumin, 5,250 kg of stone powder, 1,600 kg of flower broom (weeds) and 1,225 kg of molasses from the factory.
The accused used to adulterate real cumin with their fake product in the ratio of 80:20 and sell them, making crores of rupees. The gang has links to Jalalabad in the Shahjahanpur district of Uttar Pradesh.
According to DCP Gaurav Sharma, Praveen, the head constable posted at the Bawana police station, was informed about the fake cumin seeds in Puthkhurd village in the area. Praveen informed his seniors about the case.
Police informed Food Department officers about the case. Sub-Inspector Vijay Dahiya, Vinod, Head Constable Praveen, Devendra Constable Nitin and Dinesh were assigned the task to bust the gang under the supervision of SHO Dharmadev.
The team raided Khasra No-154 of village Puthkhurd and arrested all involved in the manufacture of spurious cumin. The police seized a large quantity of the fake product and the apparatus used in the manufacture.
The accused have revealed that there is a large network of fake cumin manufacture in Jalalabad and surrounding areas. They had initially started making fake cumin in their hometown. The cost was minimal and the profits went quite high. Harinandan was a financer of the gang while the other four were labourers. A lot of people are engaged in this business in their town, the accused confessed.
How fake cumin is made
Goods used to make fake cumin were sourced from Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. The accused had been making the dubious stuff since August in Bawana in a house they rented. This place belongs to a person called Suresh Kumar. The investigation team is questioning Suresh, too.
The gang kept changing its hideouts from one city to another for fear of getting caught by law-enforcement agencies. Earlier, they would supply their spurious product to Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
After questioning the accused, it was found that Harinandan used to sell fake cumin in the wholesale market and spice traders for Rs 20 a kg. In turn, spice traders would sell it for Rs 100 a kg.
The police came to know that only three things were needed to make fake cumin seeds. The first is wild grass. This grass grows on the banks of rivers. This grass contains thousands of small leaves of the size of cumin seeds in every branch. This grass is also used in to make phūl jhādu. Most people associated with the fake cumin trade bring wild grass from the banks of rivers and canals in Uttar Pradesh.
This grass can alternatively be bought in Uttar Pradesh for Rs 5 a kg. From there, the gang would buy the grass while masquerading as phūl jhādu makers and bring it to the factory in trucks and tractors. Here, the grass would be dusted. A large amount of cumin-shaped leaves would thus be beaten out of the grass.
Separately, jaggery is heated and made into molasses. The seeds are mixed into the molasses. The mixture is left to dry in the sun. Powder of stone is mixed into the dried preparation. It then passes through a large sieve of iron, from which they get the cumin-like leaves. It is dried again. Stone powder and slurry are poured into it to get a colour like that of natural cumin.
The workers in the factory are paid Rs 2 for a kilogramme of this product.
This spurious product does not have any fragrance like normal cumin.
Naturally occurring cumin is, on the other hand, Cuminum cyminum, a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native to southwestern Asia including the Middle East. Its seeds, each one contained within a fruit, which is dried, are used in the cuisines of many cultures in both whole and ground form. Although cumin is thought to find uses in traditional medicine, there is no high-quality evidence that it is safe or effective as a therapeutic agent.