Alleged sand syndicate in South Kamrup
By our Staff Reporter
GUWAHATI, April 4: The alleged sand syndicate in South Kamrup led Congress MLA Rekibuddin Ahemd and State Environment and Forest Minister Pramila Rani Brahma to be in full spate on their respective stands. The minister had to show revenue statistics of West Kamrup Forest Division to calm the Opposition MLA.
The State Forest Minister was on record telling the Assembly recently that there was no sand syndicate in the State. She, however, admitted illegal transportation of sand without challans.
Contradicting the minister’s statement made on the floor of the Assembly, Ahmed alleged on Wednesday that a sand syndicate was active in South Kamrup. “A section of sand mahaldars in South Kamrup has a tacit understanding with a section of forest officials who exert their influence at the time of allotment of sand mahals to their desired bidders. This practice laeds the department to lose a huge amount of revenue,” Ahmed alleged.
Ahmed’s allegation got steam with the recent arrest of a sand mahaldar, Biswajit Das, by Kamrup Police at Chhaygaon on the charge of running a sand syndicate in the area. Citing police reports, the Congress MLA said that Das was controlling the entire sand syndicate. “During raids in his office, the police did recover many forest documents. Das also has a murder allegation against him. On April 3, 2018 Chhaygaon OC caught a sand-laden truck without any challan. The people of the syndicate even made an attempt to kill the OC,” Ahmed alleged, and raised the demand for a special investigation into the sand syndicate in West Kamrup Forest Division.
In her reply, Pramila Rani Brahma said: “The sand mahaldar-Forest official nexus has long been there. MLA Ahmed is very much in the know of it. The law will follow its own course against those violating rules.”
The minister has, however, proudly differed with the MLA on his allegation that on the ‘murky’ allotment of sand mahals in South Kamrup. “A sand mahal can’t be allotted by a DFO alone. He’s a committee of higher-up officials above him. This apart, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest is there to examine the entire process.”
On the revenue loss as alleged by the Congress MLA, Brahma said: “Revenue collection in West Kamrup Forest Division has broken records of the previous Congress Government on all fronts, right from the number of seizure of trucks carrying sand illegally. In fiscal 2013-14 the revenue collection in the forest division was Rs 24.07 lakh, Rs 27.10 lakh in 2014-15, Rs 1.75 crore is fiscal 2015-16, Rs 5.95 crore in fiscal 2016-17, Rs 8.28 crore till last report in fiscal 2017-18. The rise in revenue collection under the current dispensation proves it beyond doubt that the MLA’s allegation doesn’t hold any water.”