The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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MCC turns tree saviour

Patna, Nov. 9: Naxalites in Bihar are turning green with the Maoist Communist Centre threatening to chop off the hands of anyone caught felling trees.

“We will not only chop off the hands of those who cut trees. Those who purchase the trees will face bullets,” said a local commander of the organisation at a Jan Adalat in Lalpur village a fortnight ago.

Early last week, posters carrying the threat came up on the walls of the mud houses of the village in Nawada district.

The diktat has spread terror among the timber traders of the area, where the writ of the MCC holds sway. Police also admit that the organisation controls much of the Kauakol forest area.

This was a dense forest region until about five years ago, with a 20-km stretch of thick green cover and hills along the Jharkhand border. Lalpur village was then located in the forest. Now, there are hardly any trees around the 100 hutments of the Oraon tribals.

The area is now dotted with small plots of agricultural land.

The rapid denudation has resulted in the penury of the already impoverished villagers. The tribals earlier used to make money by selling forest produce. They used to supplement their income with bribes from the timber mafia for helping fell the trees and carry them out of the forest to the markets.

With no trees left to cut, the mafia has moved to greener areas — literally — and the dearth of trees has left the villagers with no source of forest produce.

Ravindra Singh of the Nawada district administration said the latest MCC warning was actually meant for the timber mafia, which was denuding the hills and jungles that have for long been safe meeting places for the Naxalites. “Where could they hide if the forests disappear'” asked one forest officer.

In an effort to protect the forests the MCC had even asked the villagers to surrender axes. The organisation has also formed squads to protect the trees.

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