As the season of harvesting tendu leaves has arrived in Chitrakoot region on Uttar Pradesh-Madhya Pradesh border,the gang of dacoit Sudesh Patel alias Balkharia has started making extortion demands from contractors and labourers.
Two residents of Manikpur area of Chitrakoot,Dwarika Prasad (45) and Rajesh Kumar (32),were severely beaten up by the gang members on Wednesday,allegedly for supplying labour for leaf plucking to a contractor from the forest in MPs Satna district adjoining Chitrakoot.
An FIR has been lodged at Manikpur police station against Balkharia gang. Manikpur Station Officer Harisharan Singh Yadav said the complainants alleged that they were assaulted by the gang members for not giving extortion money to the gang before starting harvesting of tendu leaves.
He said the FIR has been lodged against unidentified gang members under IPC 387 (putting person in fear of death or of grievous hurt,in order to commit extortion),342 (wrongful confinement) and Anti-Dacoity Act. Yadav said the police are running combing operations in the forest. Also,security is being provided to labourers if they express any threat.
While the tendu leaves in UP are harvested by the UP Forest Corporation,in MP the work is done by private contractors. As most of the crop is on the border,a large number of labourers from UP go to pluck the leaves for private contractors in MP. Also,many contractors from Chitrakoot and Banda have contracts for tendu leaves on the other side of the border.
A K Tiwari,Karwi Divisional Logging Manager of the UP Forest Corporation,said they have met the police and administration officials for security of labourers plucking the leaves but it is not possible to deploy police personnel in the whole forest area of 45,000 hectare,so the police is called if there is a threatening situation.
Last year when eight persons were killed by the dacoits,the labourers had refused to come to pluck the leaves out of fear and we had to leave some of our units unharvested. However,this is the first incident of assault on labourers by the bandits this year and we have met the police and administration officials for security to labourers, Tiwari said.