Three held in Kodagu for smuggling precious stones
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Three held in Kodagu for smuggling precious stones

June 14, 2024

2,500 kgs of precious stones worth lakhs of rupees were being transported from Madikeri to Mysuru

Kushalnagar: In a significant operation, officials from the Kushalnagar Range Forest Office arrested three individuals involved in the illegal transportation of precious stones from the reserve forests in Madikeri Taluk to Mysuru. The operation also led to the seizure of the vehicles used in this illicit activity.

The arrests were made on early Tuesday at Kushalnagar vehicle check-post. During a routine check at 4 am, Forest Department staff signalled a pick-up vehicle (KA-21-C-6574) to stop, but the driver sped away, followed by an Alto car (KA-01-MD 1808). The Department personnel alerted Kushalnagar Range Forest Office and initiated a chase.

Both vehicles were intercepted at Periyapatna and three suspects were detained. Approximately 2,500 kg of precious stones, loaded onto the pick-up vehicle for transport to Mysuru, were confiscated. The stones, still in their raw form within rocks, have an estimated value running into lakhs of rupees once extracted.

The accused have been identified as M.G. Shivaprasad (35) from Ranipet, Madikeri, M.M. Jabir (40) from Mahadevapet, and M.A. Rizwan (45) from Azad Nagar, Madikeri.

The operation was conducted under the directives of Forest Officer Rathan Kumar and executed by Deputy Range Forest Officer Devaiah, Siddaramaiah Natikar, Talawar, Medappa and the Rapid Response Team’s Dharmaraju. An FIR has been registered at Kushalnagar Range Forest Office under various Sections of the Forest Act.

This arrest highlights the persistent issue of illegal precious stone mining in the Western Ghats region. The pristine forests of Kodagu, particularly the Pushpagiri-Kadamakallu Range bordering Subramanya Forest, and Nishani Betta, are frequently targeted. Areas such as Bhagamandala, Karike, Sampaje, Koojimalai, Suttathmalai and Uppukala near Balugodu are prime targets.

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Reports of illegal mining surfaced 15 years ago, revealing organised gangs extracting precious stones from the Pattighat Reserve Forest and smuggling them. Previously priced at Rs. 500 to Rs. 700 per kg, these stones now fetch Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 30,000 per kg, making smuggling highly lucrative.

Illegal stone mining spikes during the rainy season when drenched soil provides ideal conditions for digging. Locals assist in extracting these precious stones, which are then sold at a premium to luxury hotels, jewellery shops and spas.

Despite previous efforts to curb this illegal activity, including installing CCTV cameras inside the forests by former Western Ghats Conservation Task Force President Shantheyanda Ravi Kushalappa, the smuggling of precious stones continues unabated.

Ravi Kushalappa told Star of Mysore that the absence of stringent measures has allowed smuggling to thrive. “Smuggling is rampant and senior Forest Officers are aware of the damage. Smugglers cover extraction pits with tree branches and leaves to avoid detection. Unfortunately, this situation persists right under the nose of the Forest Department. I have obtained details about the seizure of the stones and gathered information from my sources. If no action is taken, I will fight against it to protect the Western Ghats from mining,” he added.

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