TIRUPATI: After a six-month pause, there is a gradual movement of woodcutters from Tamil Nadu into Seshachalam hills, which is spread across parts of Chittoor, Nellore and Kadapa districts.
Despite counter-measures by AP Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Taskforce (RSASTF), smuggling of precious wood continues unabated in the region. Arrests of smugglers by the taskforce, police and forest sleuths in the past few weeks indicate the intensity of smuggling activity.
It may be recalled that the Chittoor district police wing had seized 2.5 tonnes of logs worth over Rs. two crore in the international market and had arrested 11 smugglers in Thavanampalle limits on October 21.
Other major operations include nabbing eight smugglers and seizing Rs 3.5 crore worth logs on September 28 at Rollamadugu village in Rajampet of Kadapa district, where 100 logs worth more than Rs. 2 crore were also seized on October 13. In a fresh case, the task force has recovered 46 logs and arrested four smugglers from Thalakona forests on Friday.
Smuggling activity in Seshachalam ranges had come to a standstill in March following the imposition of Covid-19 lockdown. However, though on an insignificant scale, TN-based woodcutters resumed their activity in the next three months despite restrictions on inter-state transportation movements. Soon after relaxation, smugglers have been active for a few weeks. Going by the claims of the taskforce, there are still around 46-50 woodcutters present in the Thalakona ranges, apart from those who ventured into the Bhimavaram and Chamala ranges.
Speaking to Deccan Chronicle, RSASTF SP, G. Anjaneyulu, said that the taskforce has initiated a host of counter-measures to enable it to carry out the full spectrum of its combing operations covering the entire forest region.
“Concerned over the spurt in red sanders smuggling in Seshachalam region, we have pressed teams into the woods to carry out combing operations. Though we are facing tough times because of incessant rains, our teams are advancing deep into the woods and cracking the whip on red sanders smugglers”, he maintained.
Meanwhile, the most-worrying factor is that the unemployed rural youth from the vulnerable districts of Chittoor, Kadapa, Nellore, Prakasam and Kurnool are being decisively transformed into a workforce by the mafia. Many are falling prey to the
Rs 10,000-20,000 within a week or 10 days payment, and working as woodcutters, pilots or helpers....