Skip to main content

Failure to curb sandalwood mafia led to death of tribal workers in Andhra: People's Watch

The fact finding team talking to victim's kin
By Our Representative 
A Madurai-based NGO’s fact-finding team on a recent incident involving the death of two Tamil Nadu labourers, who allegedly died after being taken in custody by the Andhra Pradesh forest officials, has said that, belonging to the scheduled tribal (ST) Malayalee community, they were part of several tribals from various villages of Sitheri Panchayat, Harur Taluk, Dharmapuri District, being taken to Andhra Pradesh on November 21, 2021 to work as wage workers. 
Being taken in a Tata van with the ostensible aim to work for saddle wood smugglers, the driver of the van came to know that the forest officials were trying to catch the van. “The labourers who were traveling in the van were informed that the forest officials were chasing them. He stopped the van and jumped away. Thereafter one of the forest officials drove the van. The labourers and van came under the custody of the forest officials”, the report said.
But, it added, because of inadequate security arrangements, many labourers jumped from the speeding vehicle on the Mydukur bye-pass road in an attempt to escape. More than 30 of them were injured, while two -- Raman and Balakrishnan – who were severely injured died.
Questioning the manner of the death of the two tribal workers, the report states, one of them Raman was lying in the Proddatur government hospital for treatment on November 26. His photograph was flashed on WhatsApp of the Sitheri Panchayat President Govindammal. However, 24 hours later, on November 27, his dead body of Raman was laid in front of a tailor shop in Sitheri, Harur Taluk, Dharmapuri district in Tamil Nadu. “The question of how might have Raman's dead body reached Sitheri village, about 350 km away from Andhra Pradesh is a puzzling question.”
As for Balakrishnan, it raises question on how his skull was split in two, whether he died at the spot or died after jumping out of a van and being attacked by forest officials. “Suspicion has been raised by the fact-finding team because on November 26 he was reportedly admitted to Proddatur government hospital, though the FIR states that the body arrived at the hospital, which is eight km away from the spot of the incident, but it took three hours for the body to reach. “Doubt prevails as to what is the reason for the delay”, it said.
Hence, the report insisted, there is reason to believe that the Proddatur Taluk Police appears to be involved in a "conspiracy" with the forest officials to cover up facts of the death of the two tribal workers.
Suggesting that these were not isolated victims, the report said, incidents such as these are common, as tribal workers, mainly of villages of Dharmapuri, Thiruvannamalai, Salem and Kallakurichi districts, who live in remote hilly areas, are “deprived of subsistence farming and many are struggling to win their daily bread.”
The Proddatur Taluk Police appears to be involved in conspiracy with the forest officials to cover up facts of the death of the two tribal workers
It noted, “Taking advantage of this helpless situation, the smuggling mafia gangs are taking the tribal people for wage work and engaging them in illegal red sandal cutting business. The district police do not take legal action to detect or prevent brokers who are involved in such planned illegal social crimes.”
Pointing out that the tribals are victims of these “illegal trafficking gangs”, the fact-finding team report has blamed the death of the two workers on the Andhra Pradesh forest department, in whose custody it had taken. 
Seeking a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to to their families as relief and a suitable government job should be provided to a member of the victim's family based on their educational qualification, the People's Watch team has asked the Tamil Nadu chief minister to constitute a committee headed by a member of the State Human Rights Commission comprising professionals from government officials and experts from NGOs to inquire the subsequent event from November 21, 2021, when the labourers were taken to Andhra Pradesh and submit a report within two weeks.
It also demanded that the Tamil Nadu government “should set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by an experienced ADGP-level senior police officer to register a case and conduct a proper investigation into the incident, insisting, “Action needs be taken under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015 for such planned atrocities perpetrated by the Andhra Police and the forest department on the poor and oppressed tribes of Tamil Nadu.”
At the same time, the report said, “We urge that speedy research should be carried out on the socio-economic status of the Scheduled Tribes in the districts of Dharmapuri, Salem, Kallakurichi, Tiruvannamalai and Tirupatur”, insisting, “It could be led by retired senior IAS officers like former additional chief secretary Christudoass Gandhi.”
Stating that the Tamil labourers are being taken in service of “the red sandal smugglers operating within the Tamil Nadu border, their leaders and their direct and indirect agents”, the report said, “The district collectors of Dharmapuri, Salem, Kallakurichi, Thiruvannamalai and Tirupatur districts should carry out a series of open campaigns against the red sandal smuggling in areas inhabited by tribal people, the poor and other communities.”
It insisted, “Groups should be formed in every village and carry the campaign through them and also encourage folk art groups to get involved in the campaigns. NGOs working in these areas should be employed for such campaigns. It is recommended to the Government of Tamil Nadu to allocate funds for this and take necessary action.”

Comments

TRENDING

New Odia CM's tribal heritage 'sets him apart' from Hindutva Brahminical norms

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  Mohan Charan Majhi took the oath as the new Chief Minister of Odisha following the electoral defeat of the BJD led by Naveen Patnaik, who served as Chief Minister for twenty-four years. The new Chief Minister is the son of a security guard and a four-time MLA who hails from the remote village of Raikala in the Keonjhar district. He belongs to the Santali tribe and comes from a working-class family. Such achievements and political mobilities are possible only in a democratic society. Majhi’s leadership even in the form of symbolic representation in a democracy deserves celebration.

AMR: A gathering storm that threatens a century of progress in medicine

By Bobby Ramakant*  A strategic roundtable on “Charting a new path forward for global action against Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)” was organised at the 77th World Health Assembly or WHA (WHA is the apex decision-making body of the World Health Organization – WHO, which is attended by all countries that are part of the WHO – a United Nations health agency). AMR is among the top-10 global health threats “Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a growing and urgent crisis which is already a leading cause of untimely deaths globally. More than 2 people die of AMR every single minute,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO. “AMR threatens to unwind centuries of progress in human health, animal health, and other sectors.”

What stops Kavach? Why no time to focus on common trains meant for common people?

By Atanu Roy  A goods train rammed into Kanchenjunga Express on 17th June morning in North Bengal. This could have been averted if the time tested anti-collision system (Kavach) was in place. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Top Punjab Maoist who failed to analyse caste question, promoted economism

By Harsh Thakor*  On June 15th we commemorated the 15th death anniversary of Harbhajan Singh Sohi or HBS, a well known Communist leader in Punjab. He expired of a heart attack in Bathinda in 2009.

Saving farmers and consumers from GM crops and food: Philippines court shows the way

By Bharat Dogra*  At a time when there is increasing concern that powerful GM crop lobbyists backed by enormous resources of giant multinational companies may be able to bulldoze food safety and environmental concerns while pushing GM crops, a new hope has appeared in the form of a court decision from the Philippines.