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Thursday, 20 June, 2002, 17:47 GMT 18:47 UK
Indian bandit hunt leaderless
Burning Veerappan's effigy
Angry citizens in South India burn Veerappan's effigy

A senior police official in India has refused to accept the job of leading a team to track down wanted bandit, Veerappan.

Home Ministry officials confirmed that Inspector General of Police MK Srivastava had written a letter to the government expressing his inability to head the task force.

Bandit Veerappan
Veerappan: The most wanted bandit in India
"As of now, the special task force (STF) is headless", a senior official said.

Mr Srivastava was appointed last week to replace Mr Kempaiah, another senior police official who headed the task force for nearly 18 months.

Mr Srivastava wrote to the government saying that as he had served in this special task force nearly two years earlier, he did not want to have another stint.

Low morale

Mr Srivastava's reluctance to lead the man-hunt serves to highlight the growing frustration and low morale in the police.

The police force has failed to close in on the alleged sandalwood smuggler cum poacher.

Veerappan is wanted for more than 120 murders, ever since he escaped from police custody in 1986.

As many as six commanders have headed the task force ever since.

"It is a fact that there are not many takers for the STF.

"The operation has lost its bite. It has become a routine affair.

"There is no combing operation in the real sense of the term," said former Director General of Police SC Burman, who was associated with the STF.

"From the way it is going on, it looks like the operation will go on till Veerappan dies of natural causes or is caught accidentally", adds Burman.

Lack of co-operation

Even younger officials are not keen to join the special task force.

"As long as there is no co-operation from Tamil Nadu, it is a waste of time and energy" said an Inspector.

Officials in Karnataka state have always accused police in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu of not sharing information on the bandit's movements.

"Vital information was always concealed."

"Maybe they wanted to take credit of putting a bullet in Veerappan's head but unfortunately this did not happen", said Burman.

Besides the co-ordination failure between the two states, police attribute Veerappan's ability to hide to the rugged and inhospitable terrain in which he operates.

HT Sangliana, another senior police official, has advised the government to call off the hunt and begin negotiations for Veerappan's surrender.

P Nedumaran, a Tamil activist who played a key role in securing the safe release of abducted film star Rajkumar from Veerappan's clutches two years ago, has volunteered to ensure Veerappan's surrender provided he is given a general amnesty.

See also:

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