Personnel demand provision of arms and shooting orders

Traumatized at the brutal attack on forest personnel resulting in the death of two officials, the field staff of the department appears thoroughly rattled. The official was lynched, cruelly dismembered and even stoned to death by a mob of frenzied tree cutters numbering over a hundred.

The interception and seizure of logs-laden vehicles and arrest of workers in the recent past appears to have spurred the smuggling kingpins take the offensive path. The labourers in the past used to runaway on sighting armed guards, indicating that weapons always acted as a deterrent. And the decision of the unarmed officials to venture into the forest on Sunday proved costly.

With their morale dipping to an all-time low due to the ‘psychological war’ waged against them, the range/beat officials and guards have announced that they would abstain from forest duties till the Government came out with a concrete plan to empower them adequately to tackle such incidents. Wearing black badges, the staff members came to the Tirupati Wildlife Management Circle headquarters here on Monday morning to vent their grievances before the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest B.S.S. Reddy and Special PCCF (Protection and Vigilance) S.B.L. Mishra, who arrived here to take stock of the situation. “Our families are insisting us not to go into the forest anymore till the Government provides us arms.

The television visuals and the scrolling that appeared yesterday on the deaths have demoralised them a lot,” a beat officer told this news paper. Some horrified colleagues even wept on seeing the badly-mauled bodies. Apart from provision of arms, the staff demands shooting orders and vesting of magisterial power with the Divisional Forest Officers concerned to tackle the menace. It is learnt that the DFOs’ Association will meet the Chief Minister soon to press for this ‘shoot-at-sight’ demand.

BJP blames govt.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has attributed the brutal killing of two forest officials to the ‘utter failure’ of the State Government in nipping the smuggling menace in the bud.

“The weakness of the vigilance setup and legal provisions is evident from the way the smugglers chased and killed the officers,” said the party’s state spokesperson G. Bhanuprakash Reddy at a media conference here on Monday.

While conviction at present means jail sentence of less than a year which is hardly a deterrent, he demanded that shoot-at-sight orders be issued in prohibited forest areas.