The Special Task Force (STF) of the Tamil Nadu Police and the Forest Department will conduct joint combing operations along the Western Ghats and inter-State borders that span over 15 districts in the State.
According to police sources, a decision to this effect was taken at a high-level meeting between police and forest officials held at the office of the Director General of Police here on Wednesday. While agreeing to share intelligence and resources, the two departments would also have joint training exercises.
The STF was formed with a primary objective to apprehend sandalwood smuggler Veerappan.
After the forest brigand was shot dead in 2004, the force largely focussed on training police personnel in jungle warfare.
“We will now work with the forest officials in preventing poaching, smuggling and left-wing extremism. Forest guards will also contribute to anti-naxal operations by sharing intelligence on suspicious persons or activities along the State borders,” a senior police official said.
The 22,000 sq km of reserve forest area spanning between Tiruvallur and Kanyakumari districts has seven STF camps and borders with Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. “Police and Forest officials will create a database of habitual offenders and other extremist elements. We have suggested that photo identity cards be given to watchers appointed by the Forest Department on daily wage basis,” he said.
As part of the joint combing operations, STF personnel would be deployed in Anti-poaching Watcher Camps and Watch Towers located in interior forest areas. “We are also contemplating joint patrolling exercises with the police of neighbouring States. As per the latest report of the Ministry of Home Affairs, 100 incidents of naxal violence were reported in Andhra Pradesh in 2010 which resulted in the death of 24 persons,” the official added.
Director General of Police K. Ramanujam said police and forest officials at different levels would meet periodically and work on issues of common interest. Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Gautam Dey, Inspector General of Police (Intelligence) Abash Kumar, Inspector General of Police and Chief of STF Shankar Jiwal were among the officials who took part in the discussions, police sources added.