TIRUPATI:Ever since the TDP came to power in AP, it has been concentrating on preventing smuggling of red sanders as it is a good sources of revenue for the State coffers.
This is more so becuase after bifurcaiton of the State, it had a deficit of Rs 15,000 crore and if red sanders are exported by the State itself it could earn good amount of money.
In the process, they have arrested thousands of woodcutters and invoked Preventive Detention (PD) Act against smugglers and also there were instances of killing some persons in some encounters. But Tuesday’s encounter is the mother of all, since the toll was 20, the highest by far.
As Seshachalam forest containing red sanders in about 5 lakh hectares area in Chittoor and Kadapa districts and parts of Kurnool and Nellore districts, it has been attracting smugglers for years and there were also incidents of some encounters in the recent past in which a few woodcutters and smugglers killing two forest staff in December 2013. However, killing of 20 woodcutters in two locations near to the temple town on a single day, proves the point that the government is very keen on curbing smuggling.
The government, which already has completed the first phase of auction of red sanders wood seized in the past, expected to gather huge revenue, but it only managed to get Rs 991 crore after putting 4,160 tonnes of logs for auction in the first phase last year and now is contemplating to put another 3,200 tonnes of logs for auction in the second phase.
To get good demand in the international market, it became evident for the government to prevent illegal smuggling and thus since the beginning of the TDP coming into power, it came hard on smugglers by imposing Preventive Detention (PD) Acts against the smugglers and arresting the woodcutters in large numbers.
But, with smuggling still going unabated and hundreds of woodcutters entering the forest and continuing to loot the forest wealth, the government seems to have given enough orders to the concerned wings to prevent smuggling and to go to any extent for a complete arrest of the smuggling activities.
A special task force headed by a DSP rank officer was formed during the Congress party regime in Tirupati two years ago to tackle smuggling. However, after the TDP coming to power, it strengthened the task force by appointing a DIG rank officer as its operational controller.
From the beginning of assuming office, DIG M Kantha Rao came on asserting that they will not hesitate to take extreme decision of killing the smugglers in the forest itself if they resort to attacking the combing parties and the Tuesday’s encounter stood as a testimony to his version. “We went on warning the woodcutters to give up the illegal activity or to prepare for the worst. But, without caring for our orders, they, in turn, came to attack 15 Armed Forces personnel assuming that they can overpower them as they are in hundreds and got such punishment,” said a forest official on condition of anonymity.
The Seshachalam bio-reserve forest area extends over four forest divisions, viz, Chittoor (East) Wildlife Division, Wildlife Management Division, Tirupati in Chittoor district, Wildlife Division, Rajampet, and wildlife Division, Kadapa. The Seshachalam Biosphere Reserve, designated in 2011 is located in Seshachalam hill ranges of Eastern Ghats in Southern Andhra Pradesh
ABOUT RED SANDERS
Red sanders grow mainly on Seshachalam hill ranges spread across Kadapa, Chittoor and Kurnool in Rayalaseema region and parts of Nellore district. However, bulk of the red sander smuggling takes place in Chittoor and Kadapa districts
Shortage of supply and ever increasing demand in international market made the rare commodity a hot favourite for smugglers, as a high price of up to `10 crore per tonne in the Chinese market is attracting notorious criminals into this lucrative business. According to Andhra Pradesh State Biodiversity Board (APSBB), the cut pieces of red sanders, smuggled out from the forests regularly hoodwinking the forest staff, is found to have been used for atomic energy projects instead and for making a Viagra-like drug
The interest shown by smugglers on this wood was such that nearly 2,000 SUVs were seized by the forest staff in the recent past while they were being used to transport it. Each person, mostly from bordering TN, is paid up to `500 per kg, for carrying illegally cut logs from Seshachalam forest to the nearest road