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CBI to probe ‘smuggling’ of sea cucumbers — in first wildlife protection case in years




Representational image | Sea cucumbers | Photo: Flickr
Representational image | Sea cucumbers | Photo: Flickr

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New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has taken over a probe from Lakshadweep police to investigate a case of alleged smuggling of some endangered species, including 46 live sea cucumbers and 173 taxidermist sea cucumbers, ThePrint has learnt.

The agency registered the case Monday after a request from the additional director of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, sources in the agency said.

The CBI will be probing a case under the Wild Life (Protection) Act “after many years”, said the sources.

According to the FIR, four persons — Salmanul Faris (22), Irfanuddin (19), Rameesh Khan N.P. (25), Mohammad Ali Kodipalli (44) — were arrested from Suheli Cheriyakara island in Lakshadweep after they were found to be in possession of dead and live sea cucumbers. ThePrint has a copy of the FIR.

“The men were found to be in possession of 99 dead sea cucumbers (white) stuffed with salt after removing the intestine, 74 dead sea cucumbers (black) preserved with salt, 46 big size live sea cucumbers white, which is a grave, cognizable offence under the Wild Life Protection Act. They were to trade the species, which again is a crime,” said a CBI officer, who didn’t wish to be named.

Possession of sea cucumber is an offence, said the officer.

“The sea cucumber in marine environments has the same status of tiger, lion in land forest as per schedule 1 of the Wild Life Protection Act. Killing of 173 sea cucumbers is equal to 173 tigers or lions,” he said.

“Since all these species are flagship species, the ecological damage to the environment due to killing of the 173 sea cucumbers cannot be ascertained in near future. The CBI has now taken over the case and will be probing it,” he added.

The CBI will now work on unearthing the larger conspiracy and the smuggling racket, said the officer. “We will probe several aspects in the case including where these men were to sell the sea cucumbers, their demand in the international market, the entire nexus of buyers and sellers.”

Also read: How CBI convinced UK High Court that Vijay Mallya needs to be extradited to India

Fishing expedition in Suheli island

According to the FIR, the smuggling racket came to fore on 10 January when the Lakshadweep Police received an input late night that a group of men on a “fishing expedition” were actually engaged in illegal collection and trade of sea cucumbers locally called ‘koka’.

After getting the information, a team of local police, officers of the fisheries department, and wildlife department left for Suheli Island in vessels and speed-boats early morning.

“The team reached the island at 12:30 pm and suspiciously found a fishing boat named Khyber 2 in the sea with four persons at western side of the island. The team went near the boat and enquired about their whereabouts, purpose of visit,” the FIR said.

According to the FIR, the men told the police that they were there for fishing which they had collected and were planning to leave.

“When the team inspected the boat, it found 8 bags filled with 98 white dead sea cucumbers stuffed with salt after removing intestines, 74 black dead sea cucumbers artificially preserved with salt. On further search, 46 live sea cucumbers were found in a fish collection tank,” said the FIR.

“The entire boat was seized and the four men were arrested. During enquiry accused were asked about their intention behind the illegal act and it was found that all were aware about consequences of this act,” it added.

“The seized articles were taken to the department of environment and forest and the men were taken into custody.”

Also read: Bail pleas, paperwork, case files — ED and CBI have not been shut down by lockdown


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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’




doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”

Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot

‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.

Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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