HYDERABAD:Poverty is forcing people from backward areas in Tamil Nadu, especially Tiruvannamalai, Villupuram and Vellore districts, to fall prey to dreaded red sanders smugglers and risk their lives.
Many touts, working for these smugglers in the past few years, have been targeting drought-affected areas in Tamil Nadu such as Kootu Muthal, Sonapadi, Arangam, Koothamedu and Vaazhavand for getting labourers for cutting and transporting red sanders trees.
According to official sources, smugglers pay woodcutters anything between Rs 3,000 and Rs 5,000 per day depending on the risk and urgency of the order. There are more than 2,300 Tamils languishing in Andhra Pradesh prisons on charges of smuggling red sanders.
“They are from the lower strata of the society who are trapped by the smugglers to chop down trees. But, once they are caught while cutting trees or during transportation, the smugglers just wash their hands off and leave them to their own fate,” said a senior forest official.
Most of them have no clue about the value of red sanders and only look for the money they get on daily basis, the official added. Red sandalwood is both rare and valued at exorbitantly high rates in the international market, making it a hot commodity for smugglers.
Seshachalam Abounds in Sanders
In AP, red sanders grows mainly in the Seshachalam hill ranges spread across Kadapa, Chittoor and Kurnool districts in the Rayalaseema region and parts of Nellore district. The area under red sanders is estimated to be 4.67 lakh hectares.
2,300 Tamils in AP Jails
There are more than 2,300 Tamils languishing in Andhra Pradesh prisons on charges of smuggling red sanders. These are from the lower strata of society who are lured by the smugglers to chop down the trees.