Nexus between sand mafia, forest department, water resource department and district administration alleged
From a Correspondent
JORHAT, January 10: Preparations are on a war footing to pave the entry of the mighty Brahmaputra into Jorhat district through a diversion in any one of the points near Kokilamukh, Shanti Ashram, Kolbari, Laliti and Upper Deori Gaon, that has in recent times undergone massive excavation of the white sandy soil in the countryside by sand mafia, thus jeopardizing the region besides making the ground tilt below the river level adjacent to the Water Resource Department constructed embankment and with a high possibility of seepage taking a devastating turn in the near future. Notably, the embankment has long served the purpose and has withstood the high flowing river during flood. Demand for the white sandy soil is also high in the real estate market with more than 100 ongoing flat construction businesses in Jorhat alone.
As alleged, the whole operation to artificially create a tributary by diverting the Brahmaputra is being spearheaded by none other than the corrupt officials of the Divisiol Forest Department, Water Resource Department and the Jorhat district administration with an individual income of several lakhs of rupees pocketed by the officers while turning a blind eye to the destruction. Fingers are being pointed even towards the Deputy Commissioner Solanki Vishal Vasant for his alleged inefficiency to tackle the ubated cutting and digging of land close to the river, thereby posing a potential threat to the very existence of the historical Jorhat town.
DFO (Divisiol Forest Officer) Swapan Saikia and the Executive Engineer Sudhir Kumar Das of the Upper Assam Investigation Department WR Division, Jorhat, known for his thorough site inspection, however, have their own versions. Maintaining a safe distance from the matter both of them have resorted to blame game.
DFO Swapan Saikia said, “The rampant digging is an illegal activity until and unless permitted by the forest department through the issue of permits. As such I have not issued any permit to dig the area. The moment I leave the office and take the road, the sand trucks simply vanish. Even in the excavated site I have never seen dumpers, trucks engaged in digging. I believe these people have insiders in my office who tip them off. Problem is that these sites are of pattadars (revenue owners) and hence out of my reach and this should be looked upon by the Water Resource Department and the district administration. Most people know how violent the sand mafia is.”
Executive Engineer W.R. Division, Jorhat, Sudhir Das said, “We are particularly concerned about the river side digging and not concerned about countryside digging. In 2015, the Elengmora Unit of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) had submitted a memorandum to the DC, Jorhat apprising about the seriousness of the excavation and accordingly on a report sought by the ADC, the W.R. Division vide letter no WR/UAID/GNL-6/3928 dated 16/11/2015 replied that excavation was taking place in the country side but 700 meters away from the embankment. Further it is the Forest Department that must be concerned about the country side.”
An initial assessment has reflected about a loss of more than Rs 16 lakh in each site of 250 meters length x 100 meter breadth and 4 meters deep, thus producing 1 lakh cubic meter of sand. Forest royalty below a foot of dug up land is Rs 16 per cm which amounts to Rs 16 lakh. People allege that the sand mafia has fixed these two offices at half the rate of the government permit which is further distributed among different ranks from top to bottom. The mafia instead charges Rs 150 per 100 CFT (Cubic Feet), that is Rs 50 lakh, from that 250 meter length x 100 meter breadth and 4 meters deep plot of land which they claim as being owners. And the truck owners charge Rs 1500 to Rs 2000 per truck from those in the construction business.
Sources have disclosed about the land belonging to the xatras and that the entire bureaucratic machinery, including the police, derive a share of ture’s loot. And there are hundreds of such sites thus amounting to loss of crores of rupees of government revenue.