Smuggling operatives take the hit

The unprecedented march of petrol and diesel prices in recent weeks has impacted every section of society and red sanders smuggling operatives seem to be no exception.

From getting woodcutters from Tamil Nadu (to the foothills of Seshachalam hills in Chittoor district) to clandestinely ferrying the logs in various stages from the forest to the final destination, the operations are heavily dependent on logistics support. Consequently, the price of red sanders is said to have seen a fixation of ₹2,200-2,500 per kg as against ₹2,000.

Senior officials of the Andhra Pradesh State Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Task Force (APSRSASTF) said that several batches of woodcutters from the north-western districts of Tamil Nadu would be first reaching Vellore. From there, their conveyance would be arranged on motorbikes by meistries (mobilisers of woodcutters), to reach access points into Seshachalam hills, after riding through rural roads, avoiding the police eye.

It is said that the cost of transporting two woodcutters on a motorbike (triple ride) has gone up to ₹5,000 from ₹3,000 two months ago.

Aged vehicles

The precious logs are ferried from the forest terrain to safe road points in auto-rickshaws and small vehicles such as cars and vans. From the road point, the consignments are loaded into trucks, mini-lorries and SUVs. After reaching the clandestine godowns in Chennai and Bengaluru, the consignments in bulk are loaded into heavy vehicles towards ports and international borders.

The smuggling network reportedly favours aged vehicles with 30-40% less mileage.

It is true that batches of wood-cutters from T.N. sneak into forests after travelling on bikes, Task Force sub-inspector M. Vasu tells the The Hindu. “Going by the series of hikes in petrol, diesel and gas prices, the contraband deals too are bound to be padded, from a few hundred rupees to bigger figures. However, considering the multi-crore transactions, the mobilisers and transporters and overseas gangs may be least bothered about shelling down additional bucks in the illegal trade,” he adds.

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