Illegal oxytocin production and sale in Pune: 6 cattle owners booked for ‘using’ the hormone

The dairy business owners have been identified as Vitthal Zinzurde, 48, of Pimple Saudagar; Sagar Saste, 35, of Moshi; Vilas Murkute, 57, of Marunji; Sunil Malkunaik, 51, of Tingare Nagar; Ganesh Pailwan, 50, of Gultekdi; and Mahadu Parande, 51, of Dighi. They were arrested on November 14 and have been booked under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act along with relevant Sections of the Indian Penal Code.

On November 5, the Anti-Narcotics Cell of the Pune police’s Crime Branch busted the racket during a raid in the Lohegaon area of the district. The police had seized around 290 boxes containing a large number of oxytocin vials and ampoules, worth over Rs 53 lakh in the illicit market.

Initially, the police arrested five persons who were running the production unit from a shed in Kalwad Vasti in Lohegaon. The five persons were identified as Sameer Qureshi, a current resident of Kalwad Vasti who hails from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh; Bishwajeet Sudhanshu Jana and Mangal Kananlal Giri, both from East Medinipur district, in West Bengal; and Satyajeet Maheshchandra Mondal and Shrimanta Manoranjan Haldar, both from South 24 Parganas district in West Bengal.

The police subsequently arrested the alleged mastermind of the racket, Allauddin Laskar, from the Mumbra area in Thane district. The police said Laskar provided other suspects with the know-how of the manufacturing of the hormone and set up the unit in Lohegaon. “Our probe suggests that Laskar, who was working for a chemical company in West Bengal till a few years ago, used the knowledge of these processes… It was he who was providing the other suspects with the key ingredients of the final injectable hormone,” said an officer from the Crime Branch.

Oxytocin is a key hormone for humans because of its multiple crucial functions and the role it plays in human bonding, reproduction, childbirth, and post-childbirth activities. In 2018, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Union Government restricted the manufacture of oxytocin formulations for domestic use to the public sector only. It also banned the import of oxytocin and its formulations.

The ban was enforced primarily because of reports of its heavy misuse in dairy cattle to increase milk yield and its suspected adverse effects on the health of the cattle and the humans who consume such milk. The restriction placed by the government to allow oxytocin production only to public sector entities was legally challenged at the time, citing a lack of scientific data and the criticality of the hormone for its medical use in humans.

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