Anti-corruption sleuths seize cash hoards and FD worth Rs 72 lakh, tiger & deer skins, elephant tusk in Mahat Talukdar’s two residences in Dhemaji and Guwahati
By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, June 13: Amid growing concerns over wildlife crimes in Assam, anti-corruption sleuths today caught a Divisiol Forest Officer red-handed while extorting money from truckers, an incident which exposed how protectors of the State's forest wealth have turned predators and are themselves looting it wholesale.
Dhemaji DFO Mahat Chandra Talukdar had allegedly demanded Rs 30,000 each from three truckers who transport forest produce. The truckers lodged a complaint with the Vigilance & Anti-Corruption wing of Assam Police, after which a trap was laid today.
Searches were conducted at Talukdar's Dhemaji residence as well as the one located at Piki Path in Geetagar area of Guwahati.
Cash hoards worth several lakhs are learnt to have been discovered in both the residences, along with animal parts like tiger skins and elephant tusks.
However, Anti-Corruption sleuths were not willing to confirm the seizures immediately.
"The DFO had sought Rs 30,000 each from the three trucks. We received a complaint. A case was registered and we dispatched a team which caught him red-handed," SP (Vigilance and Anti-Corruption) Mukul Saikia said.
"At Talukdar's Dhemaji residence, we seized Rs 52.25 lakh and a fixed deposit (FD) certificate of Rs 15 lakh. At his Guwahati residence, Rs 4.27 lakh cash, tiger skin, deer skin and elephant tusk weighing 400 gms were seized," added Saikia.
Sources also informed that an XUV vehicle and three almirahs which could not be unlocked were also seized by sleuths in the raid.
Talukdar was to retire in six-seven months.
Locals said there were several allegations of corruption and misdeeds against the DFO, but the Forest department had chosen to turn a deaf ear and given him much leeway.
It remains to be seen what action the Forest department takes with a new minister taking charge. In the last few days, Forest minister Pramila Rani Brahma has been taking an active stand against corrupt forest officials. During a sudden visit to Palashbari (Mirza) forest range under East Kamrup division recently, the minister took a stern view of earth cutting in the area, resulting in suspension of an official.
Brahma has also sought a report on a rhino poaching incident in Kaziranga, warning of strict action against errant forest officials who hid its carcass to cover up the killing.