A number of sandalwood trees were stolen from Aurad taluk in Karnataka’s Bidar district, according to reports. Thieves allegedly broke into the sandalwood foundation in the taluk and chopped down the trees during the early hours of Monday morning.
Farmers in the area are now agitated by the occurrence, Nanda Kumar, a local journalist, told TNM. The stealing and smuggling of sandalwood has been recently reported in the state, though there is a long history of the crime in Karnataka. In Shivamogga district, smugglers reportedly chopped and stole 150 sandalwood trees from a farmer.
Though there are numerous examples of sandalwood thefts in the state, recent examples include the loss of roughly 55 sandalwood trees in the last three years approximately from Bangalore University's Jnanabharathi Campus. In October 2018, sandalwood trees were stolen from the Karnataka State Reserve Police premises in Bengaluru.
Speaking to TV9, a farmer said, "One tree yields a minimum of 15-16 kilograms of wood. So totally we have spent around 13-14 years to grow these trees. Thieves come overnight and steal the trees. We do not have any kind of security. We also do not know where to sell it. First thing, we do not have any marketing knowledge. Because of our lack of marketing knowledge, we keep waiting and in the meanwhile, our trees get stolen."
Farmers have now requested the Forest Department to educate them on where they can sell their product and how to market it. The farmers have also asked for protection against sandalwood smugglers and thieves. Though the farmers say they complained about the incidents, authorities allegedly did not take action.
"The farmers complained to the police and forest officials but none of them actually paid attention to it. So the farmers have now come out and are protesting against it," Nanda Kumar told TNM.
The species of sandalwood indigenous to India is considered threatened. Karnataka is known for its fine quality of sandalwood.
But incidents of theft leave farmers with only misery and pain after years of effort spent to grow the valuable tree. Another farmer told TV9, “These thieves come in the night and steal the trees. We farmers have to wait for over 10 years. And now the fruits of our hard work are also taken away. Even though farmers are in a lot of trouble, they grow these trees thinking of the future. Now what is the plight of farmers if such things happen."