LAKHIMPUR: The Dhemaji district unit of All Assam Students' Union (AASU) has alleged massive corruption in the Dhemaji Division of the Forest Department. The organization has come down heavily against it and demanded Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to initiate effective steps to root out corruption.
Regarding the issue, the activists of the Dhemaji AASU, led by president Dipak Sarmah and general secretary Kalyan Gogoi staged a protest by initiating a sit-in on Wednesday. By staging the protest, the organization submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister demanding his strict action to check the alleged illegal activities going on in the Dhemaji Forest Division.
Notably, Dhemaji is a beautiful district with a widespread green cover full of natural resources. There are nine Reserved Forests in the district, including Rain Forest Poba, five sand and gravel mahals and one ordinary clay/earth mahal in the River Kumatiya. The State Government collects a huge amount of revenue every year from natural resources available in the rivers under the district by alloting the mahals concerned.
In the memorandum, Dhemaji AASU alleged that the timber smugglers had been destroying the forest areas of the district by felling the invaluable trees. According to the organization, the government has lost a large amount of revenue from the sand and gravel mahals, clay mahals due to the massive corruption and syndicate raj going on in the mahals at present. The illegal dredging and exploitation of the river resources like sand-gravels, clay has posed a massive threat to the rivers and the riverine people.
"But the Dhemaji Forest Division could not arrest any timber smuggler nor take any strict action against those corrupt, syndicate rackets sponsoring massive irregularities in the sand-gravel, clay mahals of the district despite consecutive demands made for the same by Dhemaji AASU and other organizations to the Deputy Commissioner of Dhemaji and the Dhemaji Forest Division," the memorandum stated.
On the other hand, Dhemaji Forest Division allotted the River Simen sand-gravel mahal to the mahaldar with effect from December 3. But illegal exploiting of sand-gravel had been continuing in the mahal concerned just after the submission of the tender. But the Forest Department had not initiated any steps against the illegal activities in the sand-gravel mahal. It compelled the activists of Simen Chapori regional unit of AASU on November 25 to hold up three dumpers with a challan of Rs. 2500 bearing Chromic No. 1675 issued by a person instead of any legal permit issued by the Forest Department.
Later, the AASU activists handed over the three dumpers to the Forest Department. Dhemaji AASU alleged that the person earned as much as Rs. 41 lakh with his illegal activities. In this regard, Dhemaji Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) has not initiated any action till date against the person concerned, Dhemaji AASU alleged.
Through the memorandum, Dhemaji AASU further demanded the Chief Minister to initiate action to check the deforestation caused by timber smugglers in the Poba Rain Forest, Jiadhol Reserve Forest, cutting and felling of trees by Forest Department itself causing deforestation in the name of implementing plantation schemes, setting up of nursery, to launch probe into the illegal collection of Rs. 41 lakh by the mentioned person before allotting the River Simen sand-gravel mahal, to check illegal dredging in the rivers under Dhemaji near railway bridges and PWD bridges, to demarcate the River Simen sand-gravel under Assam separating it from Arunachal Pradesh, to check the illegal collection of cash from the vehicles coming out from the River Simen sand-gravel mahal under Arunachal Pradesh.
Through the same memorandum, Dhemaji AASU raised a slew of demands regarding the River Kumatiya clay mahal, such as to install arear posts marking the area fit to be dredged, to check dredging of the clay up to the river-steep, to stop dredging of the clay in the river basin up to three-meter depth instead of one meter by violating the guidelines issued by Environmental Study Committee, to stop the illegal collection of Rs. 600 and Rs. 300 by Mahaldar in the name of loading, unloading charges respectively in order to control the hiked price of clay per truck, dumper, to stop the illegal mining, exploiting of sand-gravel in the Sonapur, Tamuli, Manikiya mahals located in the River Subansiri and storing and hoarding of the same in those mahals without the written permission of the Forest Department, to stop illegal dredging and collection of stones from Joyrampur, Jiadholmukh, Gainadi, Demou, to take action against Khoyer (Sanagalia catechu) and Shishu (Dalbargia sissoo) tree smugglers and to take action against the non-permitted exploiters and to resolve the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh Border dispute.