Operation Sesha

Operation Sesha is a centrally launched initiative, which aims to curb illegal trade of precious and endangered woods species in India like Red Sandalwood, Ebony and Musli. Red Sanders or Red Sandalwood is one of the India’s most exploited species of tree and is under severe pressure from illegal logging and harvesting as well as smuggling. Operation Sesha, which was implemented in 2015 by DRI (Directorate of Revenue Intelligence) in cooperation with other 17 countries. World Customs Organization had urged India to form such an alliance with other countries to curb syndicate of organised smuggling of Red Sandalwood.

Etymology of word “Sesha “

The word Sesha is derived from Seshachalam hills in the Eastern Ghat mountains of Andhra Pradesh. Seshachalam is located in Chittoor, Annamayya and Tirupati districts of Rayalaseema region of modern Andhra Pradesh.

Red Sandalwood has very high demand in domestic and international markets for building furniture. Red Sanders are revered in religion and popular culture of India. Also there is a popular belief that red sanders has  aphrodisiac properties, which is used to treat erectile dysfunction in men. China and Hong Kong are the major markets of Indian red sanders. Sandalwood occupies an important position in Chinese and Japanese culture. In most cases, sandalwood which is sold in other countries at very higher prices whereas it brings barely one tenth of the price to India. According to TRAFFIC, a non-governmental organization and leader in monitoring global trade in wildlife and plants, there are many discrepancies found in the reports of importing and exporting countries of red sanders.

Apart from smuggling, logging and harvesting red sanders, it poses serious humanitarian crisis in border areas of Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu. Local skilled wood cutters from Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh are fallen into the arms of the organised smuggling syndicate. Mafias extend loans enslave  wood cutters and workers, most of whom belong to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe categories. In most cases of Government and Forest Department raids, these innocent people become victims and oftenly are killed.

Soon after the launch of Operation Sesha in 2015, it achieved huge success with seizure of smuggled sandawoods worth millions of dollars. Subsequently Government has updated the Operation Sesha with altering focus areas.

In 2023, during an event of “Global Conference on Cooperation in
Enforcement Matters” (GCCEM) at New Delhi, Minister of Finance Nirmala Seetharaman has launched IV phase of Operation Sesha to curb illegal trade of precious and endangered timbers.

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