Bengaluru: The names of forest officers who sacrifice their lives fighting poachers and preserve the wildlife often remain in the margins and do not receive the traction they deserve.
Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests of Karnataka B.K. Singh’s book, ‘Destroy Forests Destroy Life’ has not only brought out the gory details of the brutalities the dreaded forest smuggler Veerappan unleashed upon Indian Forest Service officers and senior policemen during the late 1980s and 1990s, but pays respect to the 250 men from the Karnataka Forest Department who had a role in nabbing the forest brigand.
The book tells the compelling tale of the brave IFS officer, Pandillappalli Shrinivas, who played a major role in getting Veerappan arrested in 1986 in Bengaluru during the SAARC summit, but the brigand escaped due to police negligence.
In 1991, Shrinivas got Arjuna, the younger brother of Veerappan released on bail. Through Arjuna, the IFS officer sent messages to the smuggler for surrender.
On November 9, 1991, Shrinivas got to know that Arjuna was waiting for him in Gopinatham. He had informed Shrinivas that Veerappan would surrender before him at Namtali, a place in the forests 6 km from Gopinatham.
Though villagers pleaded with Shrinivas to not to take the risk, the young officer walked into the trap and was immediately shot and beheaded.
Shrinivas was in 1992 awarded Kirti Chakra - the highest peacetime gallantry award.
“Veerappan had killed many forest and police officials before. In a revenge attack in 1989, he killed the Forest Guard Mohanaiah at point blank range. During an operation to recover 65 MT of sandalwood we were fired at. I still remember that the constable just beside me was shot and my shirt was full of blood stains,” B.K. Singh says.
After their counterparts in Tamil Nadu were rewarded and compensated, the Karnataka Forest Department prepared a list of 250 men and officers from the forest department who should be compensated for their bravery.
The author says in the book that recommendation list was tossed between Finance Secretariat and Forest Secretariat and despite him requesting the Forest Minister Ramanath Rai to get the file cleared it was never done. “In fact when G.V. Sugar was PCCF, the file was returned. The proposal was reworked and the list was brought down to only six. Some from the list of 250 had tried to take legal recourse and challenged the order of the government, but they have not succeeded,” Singh stated.
The book also pointed out that one of the ministers in the Siddaramaiah cabinet, during his visit at Havery district in May 2017 asked people to cut down plantations in the forest area, occupy the land and claim titles.
“At Airani village the forest department could not control and people cleared eucalyptus plantations and occupied forest land. In Shivamogga and Kollegal, the encroachment was high,” the author sums up....