Officials unable to pin down ‘Telangana Veerappan’

The timber smuggler has an army of 500 persons: officials

Following Chief Minister K.Chandrashekhar Rao’s instructions, the Forest Department has taken up a no-holds barred approach in curbing forest crimes, be it cracking its whip on illegal transportation of forest timber, or raids on saw mills or confiscation of traps and snares.

However, criticism abounds against the authorities, of harassing small time crooks, and letting the big fish off the hook.

An instance often cited is the case of a timber smuggling kingpin being referred to widely as ‘Telangana Veerappan’, who seems to be well known among the Forest Department circles too.

While sharing nothing in common with the notorious forest smuggler known for his Robin Hood image, the mafia leader hails from Manthani, but stays in Hyderabad, say sources.

From here, he maintains an army of about 500 people, mostly in villages of old Karimnagar, Adilabad, and Warangal districts, who are engaged in felling of forests and transportation of the timber. He is known to have shifted his operations to other states, including Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, from where the timber is transported illegally through Telangana.

Occasional seizure

“For long, his illegal operations are condoned by forest officials, except for an occasional seizure of some vehicle. Even in case of seizures, only the drivers and other staff are booked. He got away using his reach and resources,” informs a source. Even during the thick of raids, and permission by the Chief Minister to book the offenders under PD Act, not even one case has been registered against him.

Forest officials on the condition of anonymity confirm this, and say it was difficult to nab him given the circumstances.

“The mafia operates in a very disconnected way, rendering it very difficult to gather evidence against him. Recently, his name was spilled by one of his associates and the police are probing the case,” said an official under condition of anonymity.

However, of late, his operations in Telangana state have come down, and more vehicles are being seized while on way here from other states, he says.

In the Karimnagar Circle alone, a total of 92 raids have been conducted during the past 20 days, and close to 15.57 cubic meters of forest timber has been seized valued around ₹10 lakh.

Throughout the State, a total of 480 cubic meters of timber has been confiscated, and a total of 449 cases have been booked against the offenders. Two persons in Adilabad and three persons in Kothagudem have been booked under PD Act.

Besides conducting raids on saw mills, officials have instructed the owners to install CC cameras in and outside the mills at their own cost. They have also been asked to maintain a stock register for noting down the details of the timber.

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Printable version | May 28, 2020 11:29:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/officials-unable-to-pin-down-telangana-veerappan/article26164123.ece

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