Task Force to revive armed base camp at Pulibonu

Can’t afford to ignore the most strategic location in Seshachalam hills: SP

Published - February 06, 2017 01:04 am IST - CHITTOOR:

Red Sanders Task Force SP P. Ravi Shankar (in red t-shirt) at Pulibonu in Seshachalam Hills in Chittoor district.

Red Sanders Task Force SP P. Ravi Shankar (in red t-shirt) at Pulibonu in Seshachalam Hills in Chittoor district.

The Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Task Force (RSASTF) has mooted plans to revive the armed base camp at Pulibonu Bavi (popularly known as Pulibonu) in SV National Park and Chamala Valley belt in the deep forests of Seshachalam Hills, considering its terrain, giving ample chances to the woodcutters from Tamil Nadu to carry out their entry and exit operations, in addition to poaching activities.

Favourite of British officers

With its history dating back to the British Raj, Pulibonu is an undulating country in Seshachalam biosphere, offering one of the best haunts of the wildlife. Till 1940s, the zone remained the favourite of many a British officer, who used to camp there, engaging in big game hunting. Over years, its importance slipped into the oblivion and some dilapidated structures, including a chimney house, remain mute spectators to its lost glory.

In the 1990s, Pulibonu served as a cool exit and entry zone for the red sanders woodcutters, who kept criss-crossing the inaccessible terrain of the western side of the hills. Entering from behind Panapakam railway station, Mungilipattu, Ithepalle villages, the woodcutters that time were a non-entity, hardly noticed by the police or forest officials. The red sanders wealth plundered for nearly two decades, Pulibonu woke up to the gunshots in 2012, when a TN woodcutter was gunned down in an encounter.

Wild elephants, a major menace

A temporary base camp came up there and its fate was sealed in no time, as the police and forest personnel found it impossible to stay at nights. A dilapidated watch tower was their own recourse in case of wild elephants enter the camp. Apart from elephants, Pulibonu surrounds are haunted by panthers, bears and boars. After five years, now, the same situation prevails. A Task Force Inspector Ashok Kumar observes that herds of wild elephants are a major menace at the disbanded base camp zone still. “The elephants can easily bring down the watch tower, and absolutely there is no protection to the guards,” he said.

With round-the-year water availability and proximity to the Kalyani Reservoir, the movement of wild elephants and panthers is potentially felt. The water availability has also lured the woodcutters, who poach, cook wild meat, and relax in the scenic Pulibonu zone, which is now left to fend for itself. Its surroundings, Karivepaku Kona, Thollagutta and Tenkayanettu are still rich with red sanders, in spite of the worst ravage of smuggling activity. “After dusk nobody bothers what’s going on there,” is the regular observation of the Task Force and forest officials.

Superintendent of Police (RSASTF) P. Ravi Shankar, known as “local man,” who recently joined the Task Force, inspected the Pulibonu zone, and said that steps would be initiated to revive the base camp, with a view to protecting not only the red sanders but also the wildlife. “Pulibonu is one of the most strategic locations in Seshachalam Hills. We can’t ignore it,” he said.

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