In spite of the plugging of loopholes in tackling the red sanders smuggling activity from the Seshachalam hills, consisting of the core belt from Talakona in Chittoor district to Rajampeta division in Kadapa basin and up to Rapuru in Nellore district, the incidents of smuggling the precious logs are happening continuously, though in a small scale in recent months.
In this backdrop, the police and forest officials in the district said the clandestine operation was curtailed by over 70 per cent, and expressed confidence of achieving cent percent results by the next few months, in view of the formation of a special force of about 500 armed personnel under the control of a senior IPS officer of the DIG rank, based at Tirupati.
Additional Superintendent of Police (red sanders operations) V. Ratna told The Hindu that ever since the police started combing operations all over Seshachalam hills and undertaking round-the-clock patrolling on highways, the smuggling activity and the felling of trees as well had come down by 70 per cent. “The new comers into this smuggling activity have completely stayed away from the risky trade, while those who are known for their prolonged experience and hardcore tactics alone are remaining in this field now,” she said.
Divisional Forest Officer (Tirupati Wildlife) G. Srinivasulu expressed similar view that the red sanders trees in Seshachalam Hills would soon get back their pristine status. “Definitely, we have achieved excellent and extraordinary results in combing operations and preventing the smuggling activity. Now, we are able to detect dumps of valuable logs and could prevent their being smuggled out of the district.
The incidents of felling trees had drastically come down. The combing operations will continue. All the officials involved in the operation against smuggling are happy that the number of hired labourers and smugglers, which used to be thousands, has now come down to two digits, and not even in hundreds," the DFO said.
Meanwhile, a senior police officer on condition of anonymity said at present the major concentration of smugglers is the forest surrounding Kodur and Rajampeta areas in Kadapa district.
“Now, the hired labourers from Tamil Nadu are not daring to enter the sanders zone in western side of Chittoor district as they understood the vigorous tackling by us. Ironically, we have information that some forest department employees at the lower level are still doing things favourable to the perpetrators. This has come up during the inter-State meeting of police of A.P., TN, and Karnataka. We will eliminate this factor soon," the official said.
70 p.c of activity curtailed, say forest officials