TIRUPATI:The Seshachalam forest, a biodiversity hub with rare flora and fauna including the precious red sander trees, witnessed bloodshed with the armed forces of the Anti Smuggling Task Force (RSASTF) killing 20 wood cutters in an encounter on Tuesday morning. While, the RSASTF officials maintain that they were forced open fire in self-defence, the opposition parties attribute the incident to a fake encounter masterminded by the government itself. But, the fact remains that woodcutters from Tamil Nadu are taking high risk for earning easy money.
After learning that a large number of woodcutters from Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Tiruvallur and Selam districts of the neighbouring Tamil Nadu state coming into the Seshachalam for looting the forest wealth, the AP officials took up sensitisation programmes and explained them about the consequences if they found of involving in smuggling.
“We have visited the areas in some of the Tamil Nadu districts from where the infiltration of woodcutters is high and organised awareness programmes there. Apart from distributing pamphlets, we have also pasted stickers on the buses shuttling to various parts of Tamil Nadu asking the coolies not to engage in the red sanders smuggling activity,” Tirupati wildlife Divisional Forest Officer G Srinivas told Express.
On why the coolies were keeping their lives at risk, another forest official said that coolies were addicted to earning easy money.
Defending the encounter, he said that they had no other option when hundreds of woodcutters were raining stones and using weapons on a team of 15 armed persons.