Bullets and Drugs in Sand Storm

SP Rao and Yogi Badhwar

Sriprakash Rao attended St. Xavier's School, Jaipur where he was a sports enthusiast, with particular emphasis on cricket and basket ball. He was also a good short-distance swimmer..Rao joined the Department of Customs and Central Excise as Inspector, and retired as Additional Commissioner in 2015. He traveled to many nations as a trade negotiator for the Central Government on several occasions for various trade agreements.Rao is an avid adventurer who has under taken trekking expeditions across Himalayas in India and Nepal. He fancies his visit to Iceland to see the Northern Lights to be the crown jewel of his travels. He is a keen photographer while traveling.

Rao loves driving and has under taken many long drives across India, initially on his motor cycle and later on by car. He is an avid reader and a movie buff, especially of classic westerns

presently rao lives in Jaipur with his wife.

Yogendra  Pal Badhwar @ Yogi was born and brought up in Bikaner where he studied B.Sc. and Law. He took keen interest in several social service movements as a member of Scouts  during his early school days. He immensely  enjoyed living   in Camps. 

Later on as a member of Rotaract Club greatly influenced his behavior towards the marginalized members of the Indian society. The journey in the Customs & Central Excise department provided a unique opportunity to Yogi to learn multifarious skills and the art of decision making.

Yogi  enjoys riding bikes and driving cars. He along with his five friends took a mobike trip from Jaipur to Goa, Ajanta, Ellora caves and back. He loves travelling   long distances in his car. Yogi is known for his on the spot wit and humor.  He is an informal singer, traveler and an avid reader.

                                            Bullets and Drugs In Sand s-Storm 

It was well over a year in Phalodi, (Dist Jodhpur) and I had more or less settled down to a routine in the wilderness of Thar. For some time the small town of Phalodi was a far cry from Mumbai, but I started to enjoy the rigours of desert living. 

Fort Phalodi 


This was in 1989-90. The satellite boom was nowhere even in sight. The weekly soap  ‘Mahabharata’ was the highlight of the week. As I used to live in my office, it used to be ‘houseful’ every week, with all and sundry joining me in my special time of the week. 

Old Phalodi Customs office . I used it as my residence as well

Since, there was not much to do after office hours, I started taking a walk to explore village Phalodi to check out the village life. It was during one such walk that I discovered Keechan the village, which was home to thousands of ‘kurjas’ or ‘demoiselle cranes’. 

cranes @Keechan 

Keechan was not yet “to see place” to visit those cranes. Thanks to my Asst. Commissioner, Shri Balesh Kumar, (now Member, CBIC, Delhi), who brought it to the notice of the Forest Department at Jodhpur, that  Keechan got its due over the years and became an important destination  on  the tourist map of Rajasthan. The villagers of Keechan had been feeding the demoiselle cranes for centuries as the cranes felt secure in the environment of the village; they started coming in year after year and in hordes.

       I had settled into the routine life of Phalodi. One day in the late winter of early 1990 (February), Sh. Balesh Kumar Asst.Commissioner and Sh. Kishan Singh, my Additional Commissioner summoned me to report to their office in Jodhpur immediately. My mundane life suddenly went into a high drive. 

I asked my friend Yogi (who was posted at Jodhpur) as to what was in the offing.

Naturally, he feigned ignorance.

On reaching Jodhpur, I was informed that a drug operation was in the pipeline  in my jurisdiction and I was directed to make ready a ‘camp office’ in Phalodi for the operation in the Rajasthan Canal guesthouse on the corner of Bap-Nagaur on the Bikaner Highway.

Further discussions with my Assistant Commissioner revealed that the information was cultivated by the office of the Additional Commissioner, Jodhpur, (Sh Kishan Singh ji) regarding supply of huge quantities of narcotic drugs. 

The plan was to plant a decoy buyer to lure the supplier of narcotics. The buyer was ostensibly from Punjab (as was the informer). 

A broad strategy was chalked out between the Additional Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, Sh. Balesh Kumar.  Sh. L.S. Bisht, Supdt.[ since deceased] was shortlisted to become the decoy buyer.

Lal Singh Bist

 But the buyer needed to possess ‘show’ money to the prospective supplier in order to arrange delivery. 

It was suggested to approach a bank and request the Manager to temporarily loan  one lakh in currency notes , which was a  lot of money in those days, considering the fact that a Superintendent was drawing around only ten thousand rupees a month. 

The idea of requesting a bank was ridiculed at the initial stage, as there was no such provision in the banking system.

Eventually my friend Yogi, was entrusted with the task of arranging the fund of one lakh, as a challenge, which Yogi was quite  used to as he had handled many similar challenges in the past.

 Yogi, in turn, decided to approach one of his long cultivated contacts, a financier and a money lender. Sure enough Yogi managed to borrow one lakh from him at  personal risk.

The day of the delivery arrived soon.  Bisht was planted near Bap on Bikaner-Phalodi highway with the informer who was acting as the go-between the 'Buyer' and the ‘Supplier’.

On the fateful day Bisht started drinking right from the morning to convert himself as a credible buyer. The delivery evening was no moon evening [Krishna Paksha]. 

 Soon the strike team led by Yogi positioned itself, near the delivery point. 

 Bist, with the informer and one sepoy (acting as assistant to the decoy buyer) stationed themselves quite early waiting for the ‘Supplier’ to appear.

Finally, after about one hour, which appeared to be an eternity, the supplier approached in a Jonga and signaled the driver of the [customs] Canter to follow.

 The supplier drove for about 1 to 1.5 Kms. and left the Highway and guided the Canter to a kuchha route to a desolate place.

Yogi and his team ran on foot silently in the pitch dark close to ‘kikar’ trees and air bushes and uneven land, to be close to the action.

Money was to be exchanged with the delivery simultaneously. In place of a promised amount of more than ten lakhs, Bisht was carrying only one lakh real currency. The money below the one lakh and below was only paper bundles.

It was a huge risk but had to be taken.

The backup party was a worried lot about the frontline team. If the stage ever reached a point when the brief case containing one lakh currency was to be handed over to the supplier, a cursory peep by him in the briefcase would expose the identity of  Bisht and put his life in danger.

Yogi and his team hurried but silently and reached near the spot and waited for the supplier to unload consignment of narcotics from his Jonga. 

As soon as the contraband was unloaded, Yogi and team challenged the supplier group to surrender 

 Contrary to wildest imagination, the Supplier group suddenly  opened fire with his pistol/revolvers.(It was later learned that the Supplier was under the impression that some thugs were attempting to loot the narcotics ).

Team Yogi who were also   armed, retaliated by  fired a few  shots in the air.  Bisht, who was also carrying his service weapon, also started firing in the air.

[Customs and Narcotics parties don’t fire at any person to avoid complications]

 On sensing that he had inadequate fire power, the Supplier panicked and jumped in his Jonga and fled the scene leaving behind the consignment of narcotics and his "buyer”.

Team Yogi calmly collected the entire lot left behind  and brought them  to the Canal Guest house while keeping everyone  informed over the wireless set.

The narcotics haul consisted of 16 kgs. Heroin and 202 kgs of  Hashish. It was a big seizure even by Customs standards.

Yogi, quickly re-claimed  the cash  of one lakh , with a sigh of relief, to return it to his contact.

In the mean while in the Canal Guest House, a very senior politician from that area (sitting MLA) tried to influence the proceedings but he was firmly advised to stay away as involvement in a seizure of huge quantities of narcotics would cost him very dearly.

Canal Guest House 

 He got the message and we were left alone to complete our proceedings.

Since it was an operation involving decoy buyer, the identity of the Supplier was well known to us. We were determined to hunt down the fugitive supplier.

Next day a team of officers headed by  Yogi and I reached the village Hindal ka Gol (a notorious village popular as mini Pakistan) and apprehended the smuggler, Sadiq Mohammed near the village mosque.

 Sadiq  mistook Yogi  for Shri Kishan Singh, our  Additional Commissioner and  tried to negotiate his release on very soft terms. But as the team was unresponsive, he along with his accomplices ran into the mosque and escaped while a mob prevented the team from entering the mosque. 

However, in the following days saw a relentless pursuit   by the department, wherein Sadiq Mohammed was declared a PITNDPS absconder. As an absconder Sadiq could never return to his village for many years.

 I as the jurisdictional officer kept the case alive by hunting for him regularly. It resulted in many cases being filed against me in local courts by villagers of Hindal Gol. 

Looking to my precarious situation, I was prematurely transferred to Jodhpur for my safety. 

 Last of these court cases against me, which included desecrating a place of worship etc. were finally closed a few months before my retirement.  Sadiq Mohammad was also apprehended later on and was sent to the place he deserved.

This story is dedicated to Shri Lal Singh Bist, who retired as Additional Commissioner.

Bist   was conferred the Presidential Medal for his role in the seizure.

Bist , a celebrated hero of the Customs Department passed away in 2012 while still in service. 

EDITOR's NOTE . I also worked with Bist during my posting at jaipur from 81 to 86. For one assignment Bist stayed back in office and worked the whole night to produce a complex  document needed to be sent to Central Board of Excise and Customs the next day . 

And when I reached the offic the next day  Bist not only had  the document ready but was similing as fresh as a  Daisy. I hold Bist in very high esteem and recall  my associatition with him very fondly.


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