Uttar Pradesh’s very own Veerappans on the prowl; strike in posh area
Interestingly, unlike Veerappan, the modern-day smugglers are chopping sandalwood trees from high security areas of Lucknow and other adjoining districts.Updated: Aug 21, 2017 14:10 IST
Notorious sandalwood smuggler Veerappan may be no more but members of his ilk seem to be striking at will in Uttar Pradesh these days.
Interestingly, unlike Veerappan, the modern-day smugglers are chopping sandalwood trees from high security areas of Lucknow and other adjoining districts.
While a number of such thefts have been reported in the last few days, the latest one took place inside the well-guarded National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) premises in Hazratganj area.
At least five security personnel were guarding the premises when a gang chopped off a full-grown sandalwood tree during the intervening night of August 15 and 16.
NBRI security officer Shashi Kant Pandey has lodged an FIR against unidentified people at Hazratganj police station.
“The FIR has been lodged under IPC sections 379 (theft) and further probe is on,” said Anand police inspector Shahi.
UP Special Task Force (STF) sleuths, who have been entrusted with the task of probing the case, suspect the involvement of a Madhya Pradesh-based inter-state gang in the theft.
At least 16 members of the same gang were arrested by the STF from Lucknow, Shahjahanpur and Kannauj in January and February earlier this year.
Around 436 kg of sandalwood, worth around Rs 13 lakh, stolen from different districts of UP and Odisha, were recovered from them.
“Members of the gang are out on bail and modus operandi of the recent NBRI theft hints at the involvement of the same gang in it,” said Arvind Chaturvedi, additional superintendent of police (ASP) of STF.
According to Chaturvedi, the gang is divided into three groups. “While the first group is expert in identifying sandalwood trees and spotting their location, the second chalks out an execution plan and the third , which is expert in cutting trees with hand-held motorised cutters, executes the crime,” he said.
Interestingly, while the recee is done for 4-5 days, the cutting of trees takes place in two nights.
“In the first attempt, they cut half the tree in such manner that it does not fall. The next night the tree is completely cut, chopped into pieces and stuffed into special plastic bags for easy and safe transportation,” he said.
Sukhdev alias Vicky Pardi of Katni, Madhya Pradesh is suspected to be the leader of the inter-state gang. Pardi was arrested from Lucknow’s Chinhat area on February 10 and is now out on bail. “Pardi used gullible people, mainly women, as carriers of stolen sandalwood. It was later sold to different perfume traders of Kannauj.
The SSP said 13 members of the same gang, including seven women, were arrested from Shahjahapur and around 185 kilograms of sandalwood stolen from different places in the state were recovered on January 10 earlier this year.
He said two members of the gang were later arrested on February 10 and around 229 kilograms of sandalwood was recovered from them in Kannauj. He said the recovered sandalwood was stolen from different places in Odisha.
Three incidents of sandalwood thefts were reported in November, 2016. While a tree from cantonment area was stolen on November 1, three trees from NBRI premises and three trees from Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) were also stolen in the same month.
Similarly, two sandalwood trees from Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences and one tree from adjoining Lucknow University campus were stolen on January 6, 2017.
The gang also stole trees from the bungalows of superintendent of police (SP) of Sitapur district, district forest officer and chief medical officer of Lakhimpur Kheri district in 2016.
First Published: Aug 21, 2017 14:10 IST