GUWAHATI: A large number of illegally running sawmills busted in the recent past in various forest areas in the State lends credence to the allegation that a section of forest officials are hand in glove with the racketeers.
Under the initiative of State Environment and Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya, as many as 110 illegally run sawmills have been dismantled in various forest divisions in the State in the past three months. North Kamrup and South Kamrup forest divisions near Guwahati top the list with as many as 43 of the 110 illegal sawmills dismantled there. Following them is Nagaon forest division where 14 sawmills have been demolished.
While 15 sawmills have been busted in the three Barak Valley districts, nine such mills have been dismantled in Jorhat district, among others. During the past three months, timber worth over Rs 10 lakh has also been seized while being transported illegally. Apart from them, sand and stone syndicates are also doing a thriving illegal business in the State. The recent arrest of a number of forest officials in connection with sand syndicates stands testimony to the thriving sand syndicates in the State. Such large-scale illegality in the department can also be attributed to the lack of any such drives against illegal sawmills in the State during the Congress regime.
On the illegal sawmills being run in the State, a senior forest official said: “Involvement of a section of forest personnel in the illegal business is beyond doubt. Nowadays, such sawmills are portable ones. They use light and smaller machines and keep shifting their mills from place to place. Whenever there are raids, they get prior information and move away.”
The official further said: “Some sawmills are allowed to use six-inch blades for minor works. However, under that permit, many of the mills use 26-inch blades and cut big logs illegally.”
Talking to The Sentinel, Forest Minister Suklabaidya has spelt out the steps initiated by him to check forest-related crimes in the State, especially in the Barak Valley districts. “I’ve made e-challan a reality in the Barak Valley districts for carrying sand and stones. This apart, now on contractors have to pay their royalty to the Forest Department by directly depositing the amount in the government account. This system is set to make the payment of royalty a transparent process. This apart, trucks carrying sand and stones have been made to use GPS so that their movement can be tracked.”