BENGALURU: Growing and harvesting sandalwood may be a lucrative business, one the farmers of Kolar are proud of, but it is also a risky one, with growers living in fear of theft every day.
G Venkatappa, a member of the Mango and Horticulture Crops Growers’ Association from Kolar, said he had filed two theft complaints at Srinivaspura, and one at the Chintamani police station.
“My saplings were planted five years ago and recently, when the trees had grown over 12 feet tall, a smuggler cut (some of them) down,” he said.
Venkatappa told Express on the sidelines of the AYUSH Arogya Expo held in the city recently that his complaints fell on deaf ears, and neither the police nor the Forest Department took any action.
“There wasn’t a single visit from any Forest Department official. The department asks us to grow sandalwood trees but when we ask for protection, they remain silent,” he said.
He said he has grown sandalwood trees on five acres and to fence the area, he would have to invest over `1 lakh. The government officials who had encouraged him to plant sandalwood saplings had said that after 20 years, his 500 or so trees would be bought by the government for `1 crore. But he is unsure if the trees will be standing by then.
On behalf of the association, he recently submitted a memorandum to Meenakshi Negi, CEO of the National Medicinal Plants Board, seeking 70 per cent subsidy to protect cash crops like sandalwood.
T M Venkatesh Gowda, a farmer from Thimmanahalli, Kolar, told a similar story. He said he had been into sericulture and horticulture for 30 years but began planting sandalwood saplings after water scarcity hit his land. He was banking on government schemes for sandalwood and amla.
“The water table decreased from 1,000 to 1,500 ft here and only such trees are suited for my two-acre land. Three years ago, I planted saplings and they have grown over 8 ft but I don’t have the money to fence the land. Sandalwood theft is common in this region. So I often come during the night and check (my land),” he said.