Telangana govt not in favour of giving guns to foresters


26 November 2022

HYDERABAD: The demand of forest officials, particularly those working in the field, for firearms for protection from deadly attacks from encroachers, is not expected to be fulfilled; at least not in the immediate future.

Despite the vociferous demand, Telangana police, as well as the state government, are learnt to be reluctant and not in favour of giving firearms to forest officials.

The supply of firearms has been one of the primary demands of various forest department officers’ associations, who have made it clear that without firearms they could fall victims to vicious forest encroachers as was the case with the brutal killing of forest range officer (FRO) Ch. Srinivasa Rao in Bhadradri-Kothagudem district earlier this week.

There is a palpable sense of fear now among officials who have been going to work without weapons for years, several forest staffers told Deccan Chronicle.

On Monday, the day when Srinivasa Rao was killed by Guttikoyas, who stabbed him and slit his throat, the decorated FRO was not even supposed to be at Bendalapadu of Chandrugonda mandal. He was at another site in the forest, not very far from the village, when he received a call from a forest watcher that the tribals had left their cattle and goats into a patch of forest at Bendlapadu where the department had planted saplings as part of Haritha Haram.

“He went there to find out what was happening and like any of us, was completely unarmed, and ended up getting killed,” according to sources in the department.

Senior government sources admitted on Friday that the state police were not in favour of letting forest officials keep firearms, citing lack of training in handling weapons, and the possibility of firearms falling into the wrong hands as forest staff are not capable of safekeeping weapons.

It is not as if the forest officials did not have firearms in the past. It was around 1991-92 that the then united Andhra Pradesh government had forest officials deposit their weapons with the police following incidents of snatching of some such weapons by naxalites, who had a strong presence in the state then.

Weapons were also stolen, seized, and taken away by naxalites from police stations too, but the police now do not talk about it, sources said.

After bifurcation, to tackle violence by red sanders smugglers in residuary Andhra Pradesh, they were provided firearms for self-defence.

Typically, officials of the rank of range officers and above — as per Government Order No. 182 issued by the energy, forests, Environment, science & technology department in 1991 — can be issued with revolvers or pistols, while those below them could be issued with double-barrel guns or rifles.

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