Another agriculture scam
In agrarian Assam, corrupt Agriculture officials seem to be leaving no avenue unexplored to line their pockets. Yet another scam now threatens to blow up in the State Agriculture department, with a recent RTI application unearthing an organised evasion of cess levied upon agricultural goods brought into Assam. Alleged to have been going on for three years, the modus operandi of the scamsters was simple but effective. The agricultural goods brought by train should be unloaded at New Guwahati BG point, Changsari, Amingaon and Jorhat — and the goods to be accounted for on the basis of quantity and price. But this did not happen, thanks to an ‘understanding’ between unscrupulous traders and vel officials of the State Agriculture Marketing Board. This board could not furnish accurate figures about the agricultural goods unloaded in Assam, as demanded under the RTI application. Most of such goods were shown to have been transported onwards to Meghalaya and galand, when actually these were allegedly secretly unloaded in Assam and sold. The traders thus avoided paying cess under the Assam Agricultural Produce Market Act, 1972, with corrupt board officials suspected to have received their ‘cuts’. The cost to the State’s exchequer from this scam alone is supposedly around Rs 300 crore per year, which adds up to Rs 900 crore since 2012. The Gauhati High Court has now admitted a PIL on this matter and it will be interesting to see how the Agriculture department responds to notices issued by the court. The department is already under a cloud with several top officials having sought anticipatory bail on the lime scam case. Whether it is in supplying improved seed varieties, lime to fertilise soils, pumpsets to irrigate fields — the State Agriculture department has earlier covered itself with disgrace, leaving our defrauded farmers to wage an uphill battle in their fields.