Three forest staff suspended, big fish go scot free
RAMPANT TREE FELLING IN WEST KAMRUP
By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, May 16: As local villagers unearthed a clandestine tree-felling racket at Bamunigaon in West Kamrup Forest Division, the Forest department placed under suspension three lower level staff, sparking outrage among conservationists who feel attempts are being made to shield senior officers having nexus with the timber mafia.
An inquiry team headed by Chief Conservator of Forest SN Singh, which visited Bamunigaon range yesterday, found 39 stumps of trees. Officials admitted that from the stumps, it appeared that the trees were cut recently.
Sources said about 59 sal trees were chopped off and smuggled out of the forest on the night of May 13. More than half of the felled trees were taken out of the forest, and some left behind.
The probe team also seized 53 sections (logs) of felled trees from the area.
Locals spotted the stumps of freshly cut trees the next day and raised a hue and cry.
The area from where the trees were felled - Ambari Pahar - falls under Bamunigaon Range office.
Bumunigaon Ranger Jiten Das has come under the scrutiny of locals, but the inquiry team seems to have given him a clean chit.
"How is it possible that trees are cut in the forest and the ranger is not aware of it?" wondered a local who demanded proper inquiry into the incident.
For the record, Jiten Das has been posted at the West Kamrup Division for several years now. Most of his postings were in ranges within the West Kamrup Division. Ironically, in whichever range he was posted, there were incidents of rampant tree felling at the area during his stint.
It is also alleged that DFO Mril Barua, who joined the division just before the assembly elections, has been soft on officers like Das whose integrity has been often questioned.
The CCF-led investigation team has placed under suspension Forester II of Sikra Burha beat office Pradeep Kalita and two staff of Santipur beat office - Jitendra th Das and gen Kalita.
Cutting of trees has been a daily affair in the West Kamrup Forest Division, with no prevention measures coming from the Forest department. Sources said the trees are even smuggled to Bangladesh.
It is alleged that a powerful mafia-officer nexus is at work in the area.
According to the latest Forest Survey of India report, the forest cover in Assam has declined by 48 sq km between 2013 and 2015.