The encounter at the Seshachalam hill range in which 20 red sandalwood smugglers were killed today has once brought to the fore the demand that red sandalwood has in the market.
A tonne of red sandalwood fetches around Rs 10 lakh and the Chinese mafia which drives this racket between Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh has a major demand for it.
Although not scientifically certified, one of the major reasons for the demand of red sandalwood is because it is one of the best absorbent for nuclear radiation. The very fact that China has such a major role to play in this racket is evident because since 2013 Indian police have arrested 55 Chinese nationals who have been in possession of red sandalwood.
The China driven mafia
Investigations being conducted over the years have revealed that red sandalwood is extremely rare to find. It is found only in Andhra Pradesh and this is one of the primary reasons why the Chinese led mafia has fixed its eyes on the Seshachalam forest range.
It is a commodity that is in great demand in China and while investigating the 55 Chinese nationals who were detained for being in possession of red sandalwood, it was found that they were carrying it across to their country.
Investigations have found that the Chinese mafia which largely operates out of Sri Lanka have engaged several smugglers from Tamil Nadu to cut the produce from the forests and smuggle it. These smugglers in turn sell it at exorbitant prices and have a major market not just in China, but in Japan, Middle East and the United States of America.
Once the produce is smuggled out of the forest areas a large chunk of it is taken to the ports particulary the one at Kodikarrai in Tamil Nadu and sent into Sri Lanka. From there it finds the international route investigations have also revealed.
Smuggling red sandalwood out of India
While the smuggling activities out of the ports in Tamil Nadu have been extremely difficult to track, Indian security agencies have had a major share of success in tracking the Chinese mafia smuggling red sandalwood or red sanders out of the airports.
Major seizures to the tune of around 30,000 kilograms have been carried out only in the Delhi and Mumbai airports. In the year 2013 the authorities have seized 18,000 kilograms of red sanders from the Delhi airport alone.
In each of these cases it was found that a Chinese national was smuggling red sanders out of the country.
Since 2013 there has been a shift in the manner in which red sanders has been smuggled out of India. There was a considerable amount of activity in the ports at Mumbai which has been largely halted due to enhanced security.
Off late it was found that the red sanders was transported to Delhi and Mumbai from Andhra Pradesh by road and later an attempt to use to the air route to smuggle out the red sanders was made.
The Chinese mafia has always found to be improvising in its smuggling modus operandi as the Indian security agencies applied brakes on their activities. Earlier smuggling was blatant where large quantities would be smuggled out through the waters.
However with enhanced security, the modus operandi changed with a large number of persons being deployed to carry smaller quantities to avoid the risk of being caught.
Andhra Pradesh is red sanders den
Red sandalwood is extremely rare commodity. It is found mostly in Andhra Pradesh alone. Almost all the cases of red sanders smuggling has been detected from Andhra Pradesh alone. There are so far 85 cases of red sanders smuggling detected from Andhra Pradesh alone between 2012 and 2014.
It is extremely rare commodity and is very important that India safeguards its red sanders reserve. Export of red sanders has been banned under the Wildlife Protection Act. The very fact that red sanders is found only in Andhra Pradesh has lured the mafia to converge upon the Seshachalam forest area.
Although there are attempts made to stop smuggling of red sanders, smugglers continue to take their chances. The Red Sanders Anti Smuggling Task Force was set up specifically in Andhra Pradesh to stall smuggling of red sandalwood.
Officers with the force say that it is a cat and mouse game and these smugglers converge in large numbers and take away as much possible.
Moreover these smugglers which the mafia deploys are all one time operatives. They come for one operation and then leave the country. This way it is difficult to build a record on one particular individual.