Cops, forest officials zero in on red sanders smugglers

Red sandalwood, which grows naturally in the forests of Seshachalam and Lankamalla in Kadapa district, is in high demand abroad

KADAPA: The forest and police departments are taking tough measures to protect the rare and invaluable red sandalwood forests from the clutches of smugglers.

Joint combing operations by personnel from the two departments have resulted in a substantial decline in activities of smugglers in the forests. Red sandalwood, which grows naturally in the forests of Seshachalam and Lankamalla in Kadapa district, is in high demand abroad.

Hence, its smuggling is an ongoing process. The first is the domestic buyer who later exports them, while the other is the one who chops them and transports the material to a specified place with his link to local collaborations. Combing in the woods is carried out by 12 special party police forces. Each team consists of 20 members who are constantly in the jungle.

These forces are overseen by an additional SP-level officer. Police forces are also assisting them to the extent required by the forest department. Also, 21 police outposts have been set up across the district to inspect vehicles moving around. Most importantly, special teams will be set up to investigate information revealed by local smugglers, who spill the beans.

Superintendent of Police Karur Karunapathi Nagendra Kumar Anburajan speaking to Deccan Chronicle said “We have arrested almost 100 offenders, including national and international smugglers and seized more than 50 tonnes of red sanders logs and dozens of vehicles.”

Besides police, the forest department is also taking stringent steps to curb smuggling operations. It has arranged 45 base camps in the forest. Each base camp consists of five protection watchers, a beat officer, and assistant beat officer and a section officer, who all are armed. Most of the protection watchers are local tribal youth, who have a good knowledge about the forest. They identify new people who came into the forest by following their footsteps.

Along with them, 12 striking force teams patrol in the night. Their vehicles are equipped with GPS. The team is required to share their location with the concerned divisional forest officer (DFO) on an hourly basis. In addition, there are 19 forest check-posts.

DFO Ravindra Dama told this correspondent that red sandalwood smuggling cases have declined in the last six months. He said the forest resources were under full surveillance with the cooperation of police.

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