Chennai: With reports of woodcutters from Tamil Nadu being arrested in Andhra Pradesh increasing, forest officials and experts feel that the state government and politicians are “misleading” them by supporting these woodcutters who cross over to Andhra Pradesh only to cut red sanders. The state has failed to create awareness on red sander smuggling and its consequences and politicians issue statements justifying the woodcutters’ plight suppressing the facts. The issue, if not addressed will result in more deaths from TN and create an unnecessary political rift between TN and Andhra, warned a senior forest officer who specialises in international wildlife crime and red sander smuggling.
Referring to the recent arrest of 84 woodcutters from northern Tamil Nadu, the informed officer noted that the labourers of four TN districts, including Vellore, Thiruvannamalai, Krishnagiri and Tiruvallur are periodically targeted by the red sander mafia operating in South India.
The fact that the TN workers go to Andhra forests for livelihood should not be accepted and the state has to make it clear that it will not support the illegal woodcutters, the officer noted.
Further, there is a nexus between the red sander smugglers and local politicians in all the recent cases. Only labourers are caught and there is no arrest of the kingpin, the official noted. The TN forest department has sensitised the rangers on red sanders growing in TN, but only the sanders grown in Andhra are under high risk due to their quality.
Responding on the issue Rajya Sabha MP T.K. Rangarajan said that the issue needs a high-level probe by the central agencies as the red sander smuggling issue has become an interstate problem between Tamil Nadu and Andhra. In the recent times, there have been three brutal attacks on TN labourers and there is no proper response from Andhra police.
Only if a third party investigates the matter the entire mafia can be nabbed so that the wood smugglers do not induce the innocent workers from Tamil Nadu and Andhra, the MP noted. It may be noted that the CPI (M) had also formed a fact-finding team to look into the deaths related to red sanders.