VELLORE: The dry and tough terrain of Sathgar and Aravettala Hills near Pernambut has turned into a den for bootleggers. The failure of law enforcing agencies to check illegal activities has also given anti-social elements a free hand to exploit the natural resources of the area.
Brewing and selling illicit liquor has become a cottage industry for the entire village of Kallucheri and Kottacheri, which falls under Pernambut police station limits. The availability of water through springs and firewood in the hills, which is located close to Andhra Pradesh border, has made the area a perfect place for the villagers to carry out their activities. And the remote location of the villages makes it difficult for police to reach the spot.
“Bootleggers have been felling trees indiscriminately and using them as firewood to brew arrack. They also use the leaves, tree barks and water to make brew. This has led to the reduction of the hills’ green cover,” said a farmer during the Farmers’ Grievance Day Meet at the collectorate on Friday.
The police and forest departments failed to curb the illegal activity and protect the natural resource. When Collector R Nanthagopal refused to accept that such activities were going on in the district the farmers said they could show the places where arrack was brewed.
Admitting that Sathgar and Aravetla hills were hotbeds for bootleggers, police sources said, even women and youngsters (as young as 15 years) were involved in this illegal activity.
“Not less than 100 families from these two villages are involved in this illegal activity. They have been doing this for generations. The police department’s effort to rehabilitate them ended in vain,” said a police official.
“Relatives, neighbours and villagers guard bootleggers and their families when we enter the village. The entire village turns against us,” said a police official attached to the SP Striking Force.
Not only did villagers guard the anti-social elements, but a few of the corrupt police personnel were also tipping off the bootleggers about raids. “Before we reach the village information reaches the villagers. It is not possible without the help of insiders,” said another source.
Recently, the villagers had assaulted two constables attached to the SP Striking Force and helped two notorious bootleggers escape.