TINSUKIA: A multi-crore illegal khair (popularly known as ‘kattha’) trade in the Doomdooma belt has rocked Tinsukia district in recent times with the Tinsukia police on the lookout for the 20 khair timber-laden trucks since Monday when these vehicles had attempted to enter Assam and possibly retreated to Arunachal Pradesh following intensive patrolling in all the National Highways of the Tinsukia district. Meanwhile, professional rivalry among timber mafia and a section of Forest officials has exposed the illegal syndicate involving the khair timber, which has been classified as ‘Super group’. The heartwood extract of the khair tree (Acacia catechu) is used as an ingredient to give the red colour and the typical flavour to paan, is used in the preparation of traditional medicines and also in the industries related to dyeing and leather tanning. Its seeds are rich in protein as well.
While the forests of Arunachal Pradesh are being denuded over illegal trade of the khair tree, silence of its Forest Department points to direct patronage of the illegal act. While the illegal khair trade is causing loss of several crores of rupees as revenue for the Government of Arunachal Pradesh, on the other hand it is facilitating corruption at certain departments in Tinsukia district.
The entire syndicate of illegal Arunachalee khair trade revolves around the Doomdooma Forest Division with syndicates allegedly operating from Dholla and Saikhowa. Rivalry among different factions of the syndicate attained such a height that in-fighting is imminent with one group complaining against the other. The situation is fast deteriorating due to the alleged nexus of a section of the Dholla Forest Beat Office with timber mafia. It is further alleged that several illegal timber depots have mushroomed in and around Dholla at the behest of an official of the Dholla Forest Beat Office.
Additional Superintendent of Police (HQ) Asif Ahmed who led the police team told this correspondent that despite frantic search in Talap, Kakopathar, Maithong, Dirak and other areas, the team failed to locate the 10 khair-loaded trucks that had attempted to enter Assam from Alubari in Arunachal Pradesh via Dirak Inter-State Gate on NH-52. Sensing problem ahead, the trucks took a reverse turn from Mahong village at Bordumsa in Arunachal Pradesh.
This development took place at a time when police and Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Doomdooma are conducting joint raids to locate four other trucks loaded with illegal khair that are reportedly kept somewhere in the Doomdooma belt. According to latest information, as many as 25 khair-laden trucks with fake ‘Transit Permits’ (TPs) are stranded near the Alubari Ghat in Namsai district allegedly awaiting ‘concurrence’ from lawmakers, police and forest officials of Tinsukia district for proceeding through NH-37 and NH-52 to UP, Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra.