Nellore: The Red Sanders Anti Smuggling Task Force (RSASTF) has been devising new strategies to deal with smugglers as their efforts to prevent woodcutters from Tamil Nadu from venturing into Seshachalam forest in AP for red sanders had not been successful. Referring to hundreds of woodcutters from TN trespassing into Seshac-halam forest notwithstanding threats to their life, a senior police officer said that they had to keep changing their strategies based on the smugglers' game plan.
Guarding the Seshachalam forest, which was spread over 5 lakh hectares - from Tirupati to Kadapa district - was a gigantic task and they were expecting the TN government to take some stern measures against smugglers venturing into AP.
"The TN government has been silent probably because of the ensuing elections as any measures to stop the woodcutters would draw their ire and affect the vote bank," he added.
According to the officer, the woodcutters were now becoming aggressive and attacking the Task Force personnel with stones every time they come face to face with them. Left with no other alternative, the RSASTF men had been firing into the air to protect themselves.
The TN's woodcutters were also adopting new methods, such as going to Tirumala, dressed as devotees - yellow garb, Govinda mala and tilakam on the forehead - and entering the forest from there after the Task Force stepped up vigil in Chittoor district.
The other strategy is to bring women in vehicles, posing as devotees heading for Tirumala, to prevent the police from checking their vehicles since they carried axes and other tools and even foodstuff to enable them to remain in the forest for a few days to chop red sander trees.
One smugglers' gang even brought a home guard dressed in police uniform recently for free passage through toll plazas and check posts. However, an alert police team chased their vehicle and caught them along with red sanders logs after they ignored their signal to stop.
However, the Task Force bosses have decided to change their strategies to match that of the hardcore woodcutters from neighbouring states.
According to sources in the Task Force, base camps were being strengthened with additional forces provided by the government and 250 closed circuit cameras were being installed at different entry points.
Wireless sets with separate frequencies were also being given to men in base camps for them to be able to alert each other on the movement of smugglers.
The output from the cameras would be monitored round the clock and the teams at base camps would be alerted whenever they noticed any suspicious characters entering the forest. Four static teams had also been added to the existing force to keep a tab on the activity at the forest's entry points on a daily basis. Two static teams would be on the move all along the forest border at night.
Informants' groups had been strengthened to pass information on smuggling activities to the Task Force without delay, a Task Force official said.
21 woodcutters held in Chittoor
Even as the task force is initiating measures to contain woodcutters, Ramachandrapuram police apprehended 21 woodcutters close to the border of Chittoor district and Tamil Na-du when they were on way to the neighbouri-ng state in an auto rickshaw late on Friday night.
They admitted that they have chopped red sanders trees in nearby forest and returning home after concealing 10 logs in the forest near a tank at Machh-areddypalle, 7 km from Ramachandrapuram.
The kingpin of the woodcutters Doraiswa-my and others belong to Puliakuppam in Porur taluk of Tiruvannama-lai district, according to Panneer and Murugesam, who were leading the woodcutters.
RC Puram SI M. Suresh Kumar said that they have booked a case and sent the accused to remand on Saturday....