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Deputy conservator of forests blames staff crunch for sandal smuggling (Nov)

 
The Times of India , Thursday, November 14, 2013
 
Correspondent :
 
MYSORE: The death of a sandalwood smuggler at Sriramadevarahalla reserve forest in Belur has come as a wake up call for forest officials.
 
Deputy conservator of forests (DCF) R N Lakshman attributed the rampant smuggling to staff crunch, a as "universal problem." He said 7-8 persons have been deployed at Sriramadevarahalla reserve forest which covers 4,132 acres. Over five lakh naturally-grown sandalwood trees are in this area. The beat was increased a week ago when forest officials found hundreds of sandalwood trees allegedly axed by smugglers. They left behind several logs.
 
Lakshman added that they have written to state government in increasing the staff. "It's a slow process and I hope to have respite soon," he maintained.
 
He said that the forest department has deployed locals on contract basis for night beat in the reserve forest area. While they blame
 
Smugglers tend to flee because there is no fence and adequate security. The forest, which has the most number of sandalwood trees, has no rest room and other basic amenities for forest watchers, allege locals. However, Lakshmans says the staff is well taken care of.
 
On Monday, department staff on routine rounds, encountered a gang of smugglers in the forest. A sandal smuggler was shot dead while 11 others escaped when forest staff opened fire at them.
 
The smugglers, reportedly from Andhra Pradesh, camped in different parts of the forest and smuggled sandalwood. Police are yet to identify the killed smuggler. They found pieces of sandalwood, a beedi packet, a match box and batteries near the body of the smuggler who was gunned down, said Superintendent of Police (Hassan) Ravi D Channanavar.
 
He said advertisements have been published in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, according to the version of the forest officials.