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Quick Money Woos Youth Into Trade

Published: 31st August 2015 04:57 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st August 2015 04:57 AM   |  A+A-

Thangavel

Until a few years ago, youngsters from Jawadu Hills migrated to coffee and tea plantations in Kerala and Karnakata seeking livelihood. Slowly they started moving into the red sander-rich reserve forests in four districts — Kurnool, Chittoor, Kadapa and Nellore — in Andhra Pradesh to cash-in.

Thus began the dreams of gettin rich quickly in the youth there. For the last four to five years, the thick forests in and around Tirupati have turned into a hunting ground for them to live their dreams, their expectations and needs. They are, in fact, lured into smuggling by elders and prominent persons, who have turned agents, in the villages. These elders are the vital cog in the business and are known by names — mesthri, mothalali or owner.

Within a few years, they amassed huge wealth and own property worth crores of rupees in the hills and in other areas.

While a woodcutter makes around Rs 350 to Rs 1,000 per kg, the stake of the agent goes up to Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000 for the same quantity. The transporters and pilots of the vehicles carrying the logs get anything around Rs 80,000 per single successful consignment delivered to the destination. “For every successful assignment, we get anything around Rs 70,000 to Rs 1 lakh. During my last trip, I cut trees worth Rs 1 lakh. But I am yet to receive the payment from my owner,” says a 24 year-old logger.

The women of the hills, after much hesitation, say that most of the youngsters are going to the forest for felling trees and it is difficult to stop them. “Now, it is the only promising and lucrative job for the youth here,” says a 45-year-old woman, whose two sons were undertaking woodcutting till a year ago. After marriage, they stopped going into the forests. She adds that anyone giving information about the woodcutters and agents in the hills is targeted, humiliated and tagged as “betrayers of the community”.

At any given point, men from Jawadu Hills outnumber their counterparts from Kalvarayan Hills in Villupuram, Sitheri Hills in Dharmapuri and tribals from Salem camping deep inside the Seshachalam Reserve Forest. “Not less than 1,000 men from Jawadu Hills are inside the Tirupati forest now. They will be busy cutting the trunk portion of the red sander trees, removing the sapwood and carrying it to the loading points,” says another woodcutter, adding that a group of 30-40 men from Veerapattu, Nammiyampattu and neighbouring villages left for Tirupati hills last Wednesday.

A huge number of youth from Kalathur, Kottakarai, Muvadi, Kuligam, Arasavalli, Veerappanur, Athipet, Thenmalai, Kodathur, Melkanavayur, Keel Kanavayur and Odamangalam and Irumbuli on the foothills are involved in the smuggling.

Though they make large sums of  money, returning home is not a certainty since the killing of two forest officials in December 2013. The Andhra Pradesh government has been handling the issue with an iron hand and there have been a number of encounters as well that have resulted in deaths of the woodcutters.



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