Hostile terrain affords smugglers easy run
It is intriguing to note that the red sanders smuggling became unstoppable due to the hostile terrain of Seshachalam forests and is down reaches
Tirupati: It is intriguing to note that the red sanders smuggling became unstoppable due to the hostile terrain of Seshachalam forests and i’s down reaches. The seizure of red sanders logs in Lakshmipuram near Srinivasamangapuram, where the Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Task Force (RSASTF) recovered logs more than 30 times in the last two years alone reveals that how the hostile terrain became handy to the smugglers to carry on the illegal activity.
No wonder, the smugglers setting up most of their ‘exit points’ in the forest and its fringes in between Srinivasamangapuram and Kalyani dam. The wood cutters from Tamil Nadu, who venture into the forest, go up to 25-30 km deep in the Seshachalam forests to reach the area where red sanders trees are abundant, to cut them and bring them to the loading points nestled in the forest fringes near the Tirupati-Madanapalli road, through these exit routes.
The ravines, streams, culverts, bridges, verdant thickets, bushes, abandoned sheds, stone mandapams in the pedestrian footpath route to Tirumala and even the pilgrims trekking the hills through Srivarimettu near Srinivasamangapuram are not spared by the smugglers from using them to the red sanders smuggling even as the RSASTF is after them.
An extensive visit to the forest area between Lakshmipuram tank in forest and Kalyani dam 10 km away which has been witnessing smuggling activity and the constant RSASTF operations and subsequent seizures of vehicles, logs and arrest of woodcutter-smugglers will reveal how the hostile terrain making the smuggling unstoppable.
Needless to say that the innumerable escape routes encircling the exit points coupled with the limited staff of RSASTF, just about 50, involved in the anti-smuggling operations covering a vast area of hostile terrain was the reason for the red sanders smuggling remaining far from being curbed. RSASTF personnel said that even if they spot the smugglers, they manage to escape mainly due to the difficult terrain.
“They have many options to escape from us. They include retreating into the forest climbing the steep reaches fast, hiding behind the thick bushes and under culverts, running through the streams out of forests, numerous paths in and out of the forests. Railway line too creates hurdles in catching the smugglers with the trains coming between the smugglers and the forces chasing them,’’ a constable said.
The CC cameras set up in some strategic points too proving not much helpful in tracking the smugglers with most of the dysfunctional. RSASTF IGP Dr M Kantha Rao visited Lakshmipuram tank after the task force recovered eight red sanders logs after the smugglers managed to escape by running back into the forests on Thursday, said that in the same area the task force had so far detected smuggling 30 times underlining the need of stepping up the vigil and combing operations.
Rao also said that the task force will also give the details of the smuggling in the area to forest department and local police to rope in them into the anti-smuggling operations, keeping in view the area becoming the frequent exit point for the smugglers. Meanwhile, a senior task force official disclosed that the dogged Malayali tribes from Tamil Nadu engaged in the smuggling activity are agile in climbing the steep hills with ease and fast and know the nitty-gritty of the entire area proving a tough nut to crack. “Even if we come to know their movement, it is very hard to catch them.
They descend from the train after pulling the chain or in the nearby railway station Chandragiri or Kotala to move into the forests. They always keep a saffron dhoti with them to clad and mingle with the devotees, posing as pilgrims going to Tirumala to avoid the notice of search parties,’’ he said while detailing the numerous tactics the smugglers use through these escape routes.