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Jobless labourers becoming timber smugglers?
Unrest leading to chaos, plunder, loot
8/3/2016 11:15:27 PM
Early Times Report

Srinagar, Aug 3: The continuous hartals, protests and curfews is not only economically weakening people of Kashmir, but this has caused severe damage to the forest wealth across various districts of valley. The ongoing unrest is leading to chaos, plunder and loot of forest wealth across valley. It is reported that jobless people especially the labourers are now switching on to timber smuggling to feed their families
Details available with Early Times reveals that timber smugglers who had changed their jobs after Forest and Police department used stringent methods of curbing timber smuggling have now again been activated. Sources say that green trees inside jungles of Bandipora, Kupwara and Budgam are being felled at an alarming rate and if this illegal practice is not stopped, many compartments in these districts will have not a single pinus tree left after few weeks. Reports say that most of the people involved in timber cutting are jobless labourers who returned to their native villages from Srinagar because of unrest.
As per authentic sources forest trees especially Deodar, Kairoo and Budloo are being chopped off by timber smugglers in different areas of Badipora. The loot of Forest wealth (trees) goes unabated in many villages of Bandipora . It is reported that timber smugglers axe young and old Pinus trees mostly during the night hours in the adjacent forest areas and subsequently smuggle the timber in the local villages. The smugglers and other people associated with this dirty game thus take undue advantage of the present crises. Because of continuous shutdown & curfew , the Forest officers hardly attend their official duties, except some lower rung Forest officials , nobody is seen present in their Forest blocks and smugglers take advantage of this situation and cause severe damage to the Forest wealth. It is reported that in many places the officials of Forest department are in hand and glove with the timber mafia. On July 28 a Srinagar based newspaper reported that compartment numbers 109 and 110 which comes under the jurisdiction of Forest Range Ajas, district Bandipora have been almost completely chopped off. It is reported that trees are being axed in Arin forest belt of the same district, in-spite of the fact that matter was already brought into the notice of local authorities. The illegal practice is not coming to halt and instead more and more people other than organized gangs of timber smugglers are now getting involved in this illegal practice.
As per reports available from Kupwara, it is sad that timber smuggling is going on unabated in various parts of this district and Forest department hardly acts against these criminals as they feel they would be attacked by the organized gangs of people. Hundreds of Deodar, Budloo and Kairoo trees have been chopped off in Nutnusa, Ramhal, Rajwar, Check, Kandi and other areas located near forests from last one month. Areas like Rajwar, Ramhal are having very thick forest cover and if the authorities won't act against the timber smugglers, this will lead to a disaster say local residents.
Reports from Budgam say that forest areas in Raithan, Arizal and Doodh Ganga forest ranges are being damaged by timber smugglers and even locals. During 2008 and 2010 agitation similar loot of forests was going on in Budgam district. Some vested interested people had taken undue advantage of the unrest during 20008 and 2010 and these people are again active nowadays. Some people say that due to non-availability of work for labourers, they are involved in timber smuggling these days.
"Lot of people living around forest areas of Kachwari, Mujpathri, Branwar, Yusmarg, Arizal and other areas work in Srinagar with different construction companies as labourers. From last one month these people are jobless and have returned to their respective villages. Now these people also have resorted to cutting down of trees in nearby forests in their native villages so that they feed their families" said Abdul Majid a resident of Khansahib Budgam
I am worried if that people who dont have access to forests will resort to other criminal activities as continuous hartals is affecting lives of poor and ordinary people across Kashmir Abdul Majid added.
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