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Patrol plea for emerald hills

The forest department has sough extra policing of the area in and around Ghurabandha hills at the rebel-hit block in Ghatshila sub-division to curb illegal mining and trading of emeralds even as police nabbed two traders on January 5 with a consignment of precious stones.

Dhalbhum divisional forest officer (DFO) Karma Bhutia, who wrote a letter to East Singhbhum senior superintendent of police (SSP) Akhilesh Kumar Jha on January 5 itself, added: “This is a highly sensitive rebel stronghold but unfortunately the forest department doesn’t have adequate guards.”

He added that across the entire Ghurabandha block there were only two unarmed guards. “We are completely dependent on the co-ordination of the police to rein in illegal emerald mining,” he said.

On his part, SSP Jha said they were treating the matter seriously.

“We have made several arrests to recover consignments of precious stones. We have even conducted joint raids at the Ghurabandha hills with forest department officials,” Jha, who told The Telegraph on Sunday that he had received the letter, said.

He added that the police were aware that Naxalites had resorted to a poster campaign, saying the hills were the property of villagers and emerald miners and traders were to be left undisturbed. “There is a possibility that rebels are in hand in glove with illegal miners-traders of emeralds. In that case, a sizeable sum reaches rebels as levy,” he said.

Rural SP Rajiv Ranjan Singh said that the traders caught on January 5 were being interrogated. Refusing to divulge their identity or the quantity of precious stones recovered, he said the forest department should tighten the checkpoints at Barsole and Bend on NH-33 and keep vigil on who comes and goes in the vicinity of Ghurabandha hills.

Earlier on December 19, police had arrested six persons, including a trader of precious stones from Rajasthan, and had recovered emeralds worth over Rs 10 lakh from them.