Killing of two forest officials by red sanders smugglers spurs the Andhra Pradesh State government into action
Pending procurement of its own weapons, the Forest Department will get 150 rifles and other firearms from the police to meet the threat of red sanders smugglers who lynched a deputy range officer and an assistant beat officer in the dense forest of Seshachalam in Chittoor district ten days ago.
The police will also train the forest staff in the use of .303 rifles and other weapons to be supplied to the latter in batches from December 30. Initially, the 15-day training will be launched at the district training colleges of police in Chittoor and Kadapa for 280 forest officers. It will be extended to Proddatur, Nandyal and Nellore which were all forest areas rich in red sanders, according to Special Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Vigilance) S.B.L. Misra.
Red sanders is peculiar to the Seshachalam forest and fetches about Rs. 25 lakh a tonne in international market. It is used to make aphrodisiac drugs, musical instruments and furniture. On December 15, a large group of smugglers rained stones on a forest patrol and killed the two forest officials near a water body.
The Tirupati (Urban) Superintendent of Police S.V. Rajasekar Babu told The Hindu that 348 smugglers were arrested in the case but 20 others who masterminded the attack were still at large. Ten special teams of police were on the lookout for them in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka while combing continued in forest.
The government issued an order permitting the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest to purchase 250 single bore breach loading guns with 20,000 rounds of ammunition and 125 non-prohibited bore revolvers with 7,500 rounds.
The procurement was cleared by a technical committee of police and the forest departments two days before the incident.
A range officer was killed by smugglers in Kamareddy forest of Nizamabad district on September 17. Nearly 3,000 persons involved in felling of trees and smugglers were arrested in the State this year. Even as red sanders weighing 2,025 tonnes were seized from them, the Forest Department drew up plans to auction 8,000 tonnes of the wood. Sources said this was only a small percentage of the total smuggled quantity.
The National Green Tribunal on Monday issued notices to the State government and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest on a petition seeking to restrain the State from going ahead with the auction and evolve a comprehensive management plan to protect red sanders.
SP warns wood cutters
Tirupati Staff Reporter adds: Superintendent of Police (Chittoor) P.H.D. Ramakrishna has warned the wood cutters from Tamil Nadu of dire consequences if they ventured into the Seshachalam forests again.
Referring to the joint teams formed with sleuths of the Police and Forest Departments to tackle the smugglers, he said armed check posts had been set up in the border areas. “Instead of handing over the cases to the Forest Department, we are directly conducting the enquiry, filing the charge sheet and booking the accused under non-bailable sections”, he said.
Keywords: Forest Department, forest staff, Seshachalam forest, Chittoor, Proddatur, Nandyal, Nellore, Kamareddy, Nizamabad, rifles, guns, red sander smugglers, tree felling, attacks, S.B.L. Misra, S.V. Rajasekar Babu, P.H.D. Ramakrishna, National Green Tribunal