With the ever increasing red sanders smuggling from the Seshachalam forest in Chittoor district, people of Kotala village panchayath and its seven hamlets, located in the forest area, are now leaving their fields by 6 pm.
During the daytime too, women of these villages do not venture into fields, fearing attacks by smugglers. Recently, P Giri, a farmer, was beaten by the smugglers and thrown into a well.
However, villagers rescued him and he is now recovering. When Express visited Kotala village, Giri was not present as he went to Tirupati for treatment and his family members too shocked to say anything about the incident.
Giri’s mother said the smugglers might attack them again if they speak up. However, former sarpanch V Madhusudhan said smugglers arrive in big numbers every other day by Katpadi passenger train from Tamil Nadu at 11.30 pm.
They follow Bheema rivulet, which flows close to the village, to go deep into the forest.
As they move in gangs of 30 to 200 men, villagers do not dare to confront them. Also, never attacked the villagers until the incident incident involving Giri took place.
Following the attack, Kotala villagers have assembled to discuss over the menace a couple of days ago, and even mulled to form teams to protect themselves.
A farmer whose three-acre land is located very close to Bheema rivulet, told Express that the smugglers come to their farm wells to take bath after cutting wood for three to four days in the forest.
They often leave their clothes and other material near the wells.
After 6 pm, villagers would not stay in the fields, he said. Luckily, for these villages, power supply is available during the day time too for agricultural needs, he added. Though police and forest staff knew about the activities of the smugglers, they are not acting in time, the villagers said.
The villagers urged chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy to intervene in the matter to stop the smuggling and provide security for them.