A lucrative option for labour

April 08, 2015 12:04 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:31 pm IST - HYDERABAD:

Even as the gunning down of 20 wood-cutters employed by red sanders smugglers in Sheshachalam hill ranges in Chittoor district in an alleged encounter left one shocked, senior Forest department officials doubt if it will serve as a deterrent to curb the rampant red sanders felling and smuggling.

The network of red sanders smugglers is well entrenched and most of those engaged for felling the valuable red sanders had in the past worked for the dreaded sandal wood smuggler Veerappan in the forests of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. After his killing, his followers regrouped and resorted to felling of red sanders which fetched good price in the international markets of China and Japan.

For most of these labour hailing from Tamil Nadu border districts, felling red sanders became a lucrative livelihood option, a senior IFS officer said. The smugglers who engaged them paid up to Rs.5,000 a day, a compensation of Rs.15 lakh in case of death to the families of the deceased and Rs.5 lakh compensation for the injured. Though wrought with risk, lured by the high wages and compensation, the labour continued to work for the illegal operations, the officer said.

The successive governments largely failed to contain the menace by preventing the sneaking of men into the deep forests of Kadapa, Rajampeta, Tirupati, Poddutur, Nandyal, Giddalur, Nellore divisions where red sanders was abundantly available. The smugglers apparently with local political patronage over the decades established a clandestine network with those working in RTC, Forest and Police departments. With collusion from officials, the labour from various points of Andhra -Tamil Nadu borders were picked up and dropped near the forest ranges.

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