Sandalwood smuggler Veerappan may have gone long ago but he has left behind his ‘army’ of followers who are now turning to be a cause of worry for the Andhra Pradesh police.
The rampant smuggling of red sanders from the Seshachalam forest and the incidents of killing of forest officials, could be the handiwork of Veerappan’s aides.
‘’We have certain inputs suggesting the role of Veerappan’s close aides behind the smuggling of red sanders. We are further verifying the information,’’ DGP B Prasada Rao told reporters here on Tuesday.
Of late, red sanders smuggling has taken serious dimension with attack and the killing of two forest officials following which AP police and forest department are working in coordination to curb the menace, he said.
He said that the police would train the forest staff on usage of weapons so that they can thwart any attempt to attack them.
In 2013, 531 cases were registered and 3,249 persons were arrested while 13,958 logs were recovered from smugglers.
On December 16, red sanders smugglers attacked a team of eight unarmed forest officials in the dense Seshachalam forests. In the incident, two officers were stoned to death by the notorious smugglers. The deceased were deputy range officer N R Sridhar and assistant beat officer David Karunakar. The incident took place in the Peddabandala Chenu forests in Chittoor district.
‘‘As smugglers were involved in murdering forest officials, we will provide proper training to forest staff in weapon usage and provide weapons shortly. We will assist forest staff to prevent smuggling red sanders. We have also provided armed policemen to assist forest officers during their checks in forest localities to prevent smuggling of red sanders,’’ the DGP said.
Police would provide training to forest staff in usage of weapons in district police centres of Kadapa and Chittoor. More than 300 forest staff will take part in the training session.