The Phulbari MLA SG Esmatur Mominin (Rahibul) is in a soup after passing an order (handwritten by him in a writing pad) to allow the auction of trees which were standing allegedly on a government property.
According to reports, the order suggests that the MLA had ordered the ranger of the Forest Development Corporation of Meghalaya (FDCM) in the area to allot 500 CFT of timber available to one Shah Jahan Islam Sarkar.
Questions over the order were, however, raised when residents and NGO members in the area reported about the felling of trees and the MLA’s order itself was found out to be completely illegal, according to forest officials as well as Forest Development Corporation of Meghalaya (FDCM).
As per reports, the forest officials maintained that despite being the chairman of the forest department, the MLA cannot issue an order to the ranger for the allotment or auction of the trees. The order has to come directly from the FDCM itself.
Although the nature of the order which was given to the ranger of Chanuparam and how it was given itself had raised many questions, further complications came to the fore when it was found that no timbers had been seized in the depot of Chanupara near Chibinang in West Garo Hills (WGH) district.
“Seeing that there was no seized timber, they immediately began to cut trees present in the property of the FDCM, all of which were teak or sal. I was unaware of what was happening as the order copy was not given to me as I was in Tura to look after a sick member of my family,” said the FDCM ranger from Chanupara in a statement.
A top official of the FDCM in Shillong, however, has maintained that the office had no idea that such an order had been given which made the whole incident even more mysterious.
“How did he give the order in the first place? Is he the chairman of forests to destroy forests or to protect it? This is not only illegal but also a dangerous precedent,” stated an NGO member from Phulbari.
The NGO members, according to reports, upon visiting the spot where the trees were being felled asked that illegal felling of trees be immediately stopped but allotees refused to pay heed to them. They stop only after the police came and intervened in the.
“At last count they have already felled 8 teak trees at least. When we tried to stop them, they showed the power of the local MLA and continued doing what they wanted to,” mentioned one of the FDCM officials from the range.
FDCM is the corporation which is allowed to auction seized timber in all of Meghalaya. FDCM releases advertisements of such auctions and after due process, the auctions are carried out. In this case, however, no such procedure has been followed.
The forest official department has stated that an investigation into the matter will commence today onwards.
The MLA, however, has stated that the whole incident is the result of a misunderstanding.
“They misconstrued the order and cut down trees instead. It has been stopped after the matter was informed to me,” claimed Mominin.