Sidda Raghava Rao
Sidda Raghava Rao

Amaravati: Minister for forests and environment Sidda Raghava Rao warned the department officials that he would take severe action against them if government finds the alleged involvement of them in red sanders smuggling. “I will not tolerate if the officials who are supposed to protect forest produce, are involved in the red sanders smuggling,” he said in a release on Friday.

He said Nellore district police arrested Peram Rama Raju, a forest beat officer recently in connection to the red sanders smuggling. The accused Rama Raju went on leave without informing the higher officials. He was suspended from the duty on June 10, he added.

“The state government gave top priority for protection of red sanders and allocated more than Rs 25 crore for the first time.  The department has been using drones to monitor the activities in the forest.

Apart from this, it established base camps, striking forces, check-posts, joint enforcement teams of police and forest personnel,” said Raghava Rao and claimed that due to these efforts the department was able to seize a large quantity of red sanders logs from smugglers in the past four years. According to him, the department was able to find the red sanders cutting workers in advance and arrest them as preventive measure.

The minister warned that the government would ensure severe punishment to the smugglers, wherever they may hide. Reacting to the misusing of department vehicles by the forest officials, Raghava Rao warned that he noticed that the forest guards and watchers at Istakameswari temple in Srisailam were collecting big amounts of money from the pilgrims by transporting them on government vehicles. The minister ordered an inquiry into the allegations and warned that as soon as he got the report, he would take suitable action on the errant officials.