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Veerappan hunter shunted out

Chennai, April 6: Walter I. Davaram’s vow to catch Veerappan dead or alive remains unfulfilled.

The joint commandant of the Special Task Force assigned to nab the elusive forest brigand has been shifted out of the top job, even as the Jayalalithaa regime significantly pruned the overall allocation for the force’s jungle operations this year.

Additional director general of police R. Nataraj will be the new chief of the Tamil Nadu task force and he will coordinate with the Karnataka unit in conducting the anti-Veerappan operations, sources said.

Davaram has been appointed vice-chairman of the Tamil Nadu Sports Development Authority after being nudged out of the high profile assignment for, what is being cited in official circles, health reasons.

He was made head of the task force soon after the ADMK returned to power in May 2001 under a special two-year contract and as part of Jayalalithaa’s efforts to intensify anti-Veerappan operations. This year, the state has effected a sizeable cut in the funds allocation for the force.

Against a little over Rs 8.21 crore incurred by it in 2002-03, the state has put aside only about Rs 5.66 crore for the current financial year starting April 1.

The tightening of government purse strings in allocating funds for the Special Task Force may merely be an economy drive from the fiscal point of view. But it also indicates a possible scaling down of its operations.

The force’s morale took a beating last year following the abduction and murder of former Karnataka minister H. Nagappa by the forest bandit. But it made a breakthrough by arresting several key associates of Veerappan who had helped him kidnap the minister.

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