Based on a tip-off, a joint team of Doomdoma Forest Department and Doomdooma Police seized two sawn timber-laden 16-wheeler trucks bearing registration numbers AS 01-GC-9629 and AS 01-DD-3917 at Hanhsara Petrol Depot under Doomdooma Police Station in Tinsukia district under Dibrugarh Forest Division on Monday evening.
The timber-laden vehicles were seized due to lack of proper documents regarding the transportation of the consignments.
The operating team apprehended two vehicle staff members while the drivers of both the vehicles managed to escape. The police after verification of the related documents handed over the timber-laden vehicles and the consignments to Dibrugarh Forest Department on Tuesday afternoon for further proceedings.
As per the receipts produced by the vehicles’ staff members, the consignments were being transported from M/s Jong Wood Industry based at Kharsang in Arunachal Pradesh by paying inter-State levy amounting to Rs 15,685 at Jagun forest range and were supposed to have gone towards Digboi-Tinsukia via National Highway-38.
But to the surprise of the police and forest officials, the timber-laden vehicles were detected at Hansara Petrol Depot along NH 37 under Doomdooma Police Station. It has been suspected that the timbers instead of coming from Kharsang came from Lohit district of Arunachal via Namsai-Sadiya-Kakopather-Doomdooma.
The recovery of the doubtful levy receipt, book No 17996, Receipt No 3 with footnote AGP-L(I) F.19 No 46/16-17, dated April 1, 2018 from the possession of the apprehended vehicle staff members on a different route speaks about the anomalies being perpetrated in nexus with the timber smugglers of Tinsukia and Dibrugarh district.
According to forest sources, the consignments belonged to Raju Medhi, an established local businessman of Doomdoma area, who has been doing timber business in both Assam and Arunachal.
There are allegations that a strong network of timber smugglers has been operating in Tinsukia district under political patronage. It has also been alleged that the transit pass and levy receipts are repeatedly used by the smugglers to transport their consignments from Arunachal to their destinations having nexus with rangers and even top level district forest officials.
“The Forest Department will verify the consignment whether the timbers were smuggled and steps will be taken accordingly as per the laid-down forest Act,” assured Dilip Deka, the Divisional Forest Officer of Dibrugarh. He also added, “Both the timber-laden vehicles are now under the custody of Dibrugarh Forest Department for investigation.”
Meanwhile, on being asked Khadim Jaman Jinnah, DFO, Doomdoma, refused to comment as after preliminary police verification, the matter would be investigated thoroughly by Dibrugarh Forest officials. He added, “I have alerted the officials and staff members of the department to remain vigilant and drive hard round the clock to ensure that no illegal activity in respect of various forest products takes place and crack upon the menace of inter-State timber smuggling with an iron fest.”
The Conservator of Forest, Eastern Assam Circle, Ranjan Kumar Das, when enquired about the levy receipt at Jagun Forest Range and recovery of the vehicles with forest products surprisingly on a different and opposite route, said, “The department will carry out investigations pertaining to all departmental documents including the transit pass, inter-State levy receipt book and if necessary, steps will be initiated for cross and counter verification of the documents with our Arunachal counterparts.”
Das added, “‘The species and quantity of the seized forest products, presently under Dibgugrah Forest Department’s custody, would also be looked into.” Das also said, “‘Whether the consignment is illegal or it is an act of smuggling would be ascertained only after due investigation,” the top forest official further said.