AP Task Force clamps down on smuggling of red sanders

AP Task Force clamps down on smuggling of red sanders

AP Task Force clamps down on smuggling of red sanders

An exclusive Task Force, formed to check smuggling of red sandalwood in Andhra Pradesh, has arrested more than 100 smugglers, mostly from Tamil Nadu, over the last two months and seized a large quantity of the valuable wood.

"As many as 108 smugglers have been arrested since June 25, resulting in seizure of close to 10 tonnes of red sanders," Task Force officer G Uday Kumar told PTI.

The arrested include mostly wood-cutters from Tamil Nadu and also four kingpins of the smuggling racket, he said.

The Tirupati-headquartered Task Force, with 13 officers, drawn from police and Forest Department, and a 25-member strike force, had been carrying out daily raids on the hideouts across Kadapa, Chittoor, Nellore, Kurnool and Anantapur districts, creating a sense of fear among the smugglers, the senior police officer said.

The special team has made 82 arrests in Chittoor district alone, Kumar said.

The Government in June constituted the Task Force to curb smuggling of red sanders in Kadapa, Chittoor and Nellore districts, from where illegal felling and transportation of the precious and endangered wood had been widely reported.

Police and Forest officials are separately continuing with their efforts to check the rampant felling of the red sander trees and have made scores of arrests and seized hundreds of tonnes of the wood in different parts of AP.

Red sandalwood grows mainly in Seshachalam Hill Ranges spread across Kadapa, Chittoor and Kurnool in Rayalaseema region and parts of Nellore district. However, majority of red sander smuggling takes place from Chittoor and Kadapa.

Felling, transportation and sale of red sanders is prohibited in India. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has imposed a ban on its international trade.

Red sanders, or red sandalwood, has huge demand abroad, especially in China and Japan, and commands good price.

One tonne of the wood is sold at Rs 10 lakh locally, but it fetches close to Rs 60 lakh in Dubai and around Rs 35 lakh on the country's ports. It costs Rs 300 a kg in forest area (where it is felled), officials said.

The Task Force officials recently held review meetings with Directorate of Revenue Intelligence officers at Chennai. They hold regular discussions with Forest officials in a bid to strengthen their operation and end this menace.