SHILLONG: In a recent statement, Chief Executive Member Pyniaid Sing Syiem of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) affirmed that the council's forest check gates, established in accordance with regulations, will persist. Emphatically, he stated that there is no intention to halt vehicle inspections at these gates, and any detected illegality will incur penalties.
Syiem clarified that the primary purpose of these check gates is to curb the illegal transportation of timber and other items. Contrary to speculation, he emphasized that the council does not levy taxes at these gates but rather uses them to enforce regulations.
Addressing toll gates, Syiem explained their role in ensuring compliance with the United Khasi-Jaintia Hills (Trading By Non-Tribals) Regulation, 1954. He pointed out that many non-tribal traders from outside the state exploit local farmers by purchasing vegetables at unreasonably low prices, often without valid documents. The toll gates aim to verify the legitimacy of such transactions.
Responding to criticisms, Syiem acknowledged the possibility of irregularities in the council's decision to set up multiple check and toll gates along the same stretch. However, he firmly defended their legality, asserting that the Executive Committee is committed to rectifying any identified irregularities. The council plans to submit a comprehensive list of revenue toll gates to the state government, accompanied by relevant regulations and provisions from the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution that empower the council to establish toll gates. Syiem also mentioned plans to attach a High Court ruling validating the council's authority in this matter.
The controversy deepened when Moskalander Marngar, president of the Meghalaya Commercial Truck Owners and Drivers Association (MCTO&DA), claimed that the council operates around 30 toll gates. Marngar alleged that truckers are subjected to variable toll amounts, ranging from Rs 300 during the day to Rs 1,000 at night.
Expressing dissatisfaction, Marngar declared that the MCTO&DA would not pay at any of the council's toll gates until a comprehensive working plan is finalized and shared with the government. He insisted on transparency, stating that they would only consider payments once they are informed about the legitimacy of each toll gate.
As controversies persist, the KHADC faces the dual challenge of upholding its commitment to combat illegal activities while addressing concerns raised by stakeholders, particularly those in the trucking industry.