Bengaluru: The forest cell of the CID Department has kept a tight vigil to stop rampant smuggling of Red Sanders wood. But as the demand for the wood has still not come down, the smugglers are trying different ways to smuggle it out of the country, as it fetches nearly Rs 14,000 per kg in the international market.
Mobile forest squads, CID forest cell and jurisdictional police have played a crucial role in curbing the racket by conducting extensive raids and arresting hundreds of smugglers. A senior police officer from the CID forest cell, who did not want to be identified, said, “The racket was big, until a few smugglers were shot dead during an encounter in Andhra Pradesh in 2015. The wood is mainly found near Tirupati and surrounding areas.”
He said, “The smuggling of this exotic wood was rampant over the last six-eight years, as the sale and export was banned by the central government because of its rarity. The wood was smuggled to mainly Asian countries, through Mumbai and Chennai ports and negotiations used to take place on the outskirts of Bengaluru. We had set up several teams, with members from the forest department, and arrested hundreds of smugglers and seized tonnes of wood.”
He said, “The teams succeeded because of the help extended by local residents. Several big smuggling operations were stopped. Areas around Hosakote, like Kattigeganahalli, were active and stored smuggled wood. Even now, over 50,000 kg of Red Sanders is seized every year.”
The CID forest cell operates in 16 places across the state, which keeps a tight vigil along the borders. “As soon as we receive information about Red Sanders being smuggled, the forest squads, CID forest cell and jurisdictional police, who are trained to identify the wood, form teams to crack down on the culprits,” he said. Red Sanders is believed to be widely used in Japan, China and Koreas to prepare medicines, beauty products, musical instruments and house décor items.
For the first time, the Karnataka Forest department legally auctioned 86 tonnes of Red Sanders for Rs 6.40 crore recently. Dipika Bajpai, Deputy Conservator of Forest (Bengaluru Urban), said, “Of the 86 tonnes, we sold 52 tonnes in a short span. The buyers were mainly exporters from Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Bengaluru and a few other places. The next open sale is on December 9.”