CJI Justice N.V. Ramana on Blood sanders book
Here is the Full text of the speech delivered by Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India Shri Justice N V Ramana at the launch of book “Blood Sanders : The Great Forest Heist” authored by Shri Sudhakar Reddy Udumula, Senior Journalist.
The book ‘Blood Sanders’ that we are holding in our hands today is the result of diligent
research and a great amount of hard work put in by Sri Udumula Sudhakar Reddy. He
has been tracking this subject as a professional news reporter for nearly two decades.
He travelled extensively in the habitat of red sanders which is a difficult terrain to walk
through. He had first-hand interaction with the key players of the smuggling racket and
also those who struggled to enforce the law. I think he is the most qualified person to
deal with this subject.
When he first approached me for this event, I had no choice but to say yes for more
than one reason. Firstly, I knew him as a journalist from his formative days as a crime
reporter. I am happy to note that he rose to the rank of Editor in a leading English daily.
Secondly, I and his uncle Udumula Joji Reddy were together as students in S V V N
Degree College, Amaravathi. His father, Sri Udumula Rayapa Reddy garu, a few years
senior to me, is an agriculturist who hailed from Jagannadhapuram village which is
adjacent to my native village Ponnavaram.
మా ఊరూ వాడా గుర్తొస్తున్నాయి. ఆ మంచి రోజులూ, ఆ నాటి మిత్రులు గుర్తొకొస్తున్నారు. ఊరికి వెళ్లాలని ఎప్పటినుండో అనుకుంటున్నాను. త్వరలో వీలు చేసుకోవటానికి ప్రయత్నిస్తాను. (I am reminded of my village, good old days
and great friends. I have been longing to visit my village. Hope to do so very soon).
As described by Sudhakar, his father Rayapa Reddy garu is well known in our area for
his integrity and resilience. I couldn’t have said no, to this worthy son of a worthy father.
Sudhakar Reddy is an award-winning journalist. He has won national and international
laurels for his work.
His book gives insights into what all has gone wrong with the fragile ecosystem spread
over Chittoor, Nellore, Prakasam, Kadapa and Kurnool Districts of Andhra Pradesh. Red
Sanders thrived in this habitat till a few decades ago. Now it is facing the threat of
extinction. Like all good things in this world, Red Sanders also fell prey to the greed of
man. Sri Sudhakar explains as to how the high and mighty fuelled this project of
destruction. The destruction, not only of the Red Sanders species, but of the ecosystem
as a whole. This species is known for preventing forest fires from spreading in the
vulnerable forests of Seshachalam hills. Consequences of this ecological destruction are
there for us to see globally. The need of the hour is to address these issues locally.
According to an estimate presented by the author, in the last two decades, nearly 60
lakh Red Sanders trees were cut. Smuggling from the forest area spread over 5,30,097
hectares resulted in the arrest of over 2000 persons from the neighbouring state alone.
Many have lost lives. Law breakers as well as enforcers of the law suffered fatalities.
The author rightly named the book ‘Blood Sanders’, as smuggling of this high value
timber has led to unprecedented bloodshed. It is second only to sandalwood smuggling,
As the author mentions, ‘The AP Forest Act’ was amended in 2016 to deal sternly with
the smuggling of Red Sanders. However, what is lacking is the necessary will to enforce
these laws. This is where the media needs to play its role. The collective failures of
individuals and institutions entrusted with the role of protectors need to be highlighted
by the media. People need to be made aware of deficiencies in the process. This job can
only be done by the media.
As a person whose first job was that of a journalist, I am taking the liberty to share a
few thoughts on present day media. The concept of investigative journalism is
unfortunately vanishing from the media canvas. It is true at least in the Indian context.
When we were growing up, we eagerly looked forward to news papers exposing big
scandals. The news papers never disappointed us.
In the past, we have witnessed newspaper reports on scandals and misconduct creating
waves leading to serious consequences. Barring one or two, I don’t recall any story of
such magnitude in the recent years. Everything in our garden appears to be rosy. I
leave it to you to arrive at your own conclusions.
I am reminded of what Gandhi ji said about newspapers, I quote:
“The newspapers should be read for the study of facts. They should not be allowed to kill
the habit of independent thinking.”
I hope the media introspects and tests itself against these words of Mahatma.
Coming back to the book that we released today, Sudhakar Reddy made some very good
suggestions for protection and conservation of Red Sanders and the Seshachalam
Forest Ecosystem. It includes creating a conducive atmosphere for the cultivation,
harvest and trade of Red Sanders.
I have a suggestion to make. Locals, if involved in conservation efforts, will make a huge
difference. Tiger reserves and wild life sanctuaries have benefitted from engaging tribals
who are forest dwellers as forest guards. With this approach, prospective poachers of
wild life were turned into wild life protectors as they found dependable livelihood. The
authorities here can try this method in Seshachalam by way of employing tribals and
other forest dwellers as forest guards. Possibly, the smugglers may then find it difficult
to attract them for the job of tree felling.
Let me not come between you and the panel of experienced and knowledgeable experts
who are going to enlighten the gathering about the wide gamut of issues involved. I wish
Sudhakar Reddy all the very best in his future endeavours. Keep up your good work.
I thank Sudhakar Reddy and the organisers for giving me the opportunity to take part
in this event.
CJI Justice N.V. Ramana on Blood sanders book