Theft in tiger country

hundreds of trees were hacked recently near Gosaba in the Sunderbans in West Bengal. The felling is said to be the handiwork of timber smugglers. However, no action has been taken against the culprits till now. According to forest department authorities, the trees were chopped down over a two-kilometre stretch and the illegal operation had the backing of the local political leaders. Armed as they were with sophisticated weapons, even the local people did not dare to challenge the smugglers. Gosaba block development officer Proloy Majumdar said, "I was informed about the incident and have asked the police to investigate.' An officer explained that they had rushed to the spot but the logs had been smuggled out by then. "Gosaba comprises 14 islands. We cannot keep constant vigil with such poor infrastructure and manpower,' he said. The Sunderbans development board officials expressed their helplessness in the entire matter. Forest officer Siddhartha Roy passed the buck to the police and panchayats. While echoing Roy's view, the minister of state for Sunderbans development affairs denied knowledge about political patronage to the timber mafia.