GUWAHATI, June 20 - At a time when the Assam Government is facing a severe financial crunch and depletion of forest cover has become a serious issue, the Bureau of Investigation of Economic Offences (BIEO) has detected a large number of cases of evasion of royalty to be paid on forest produce, which could not have been possible without the connivance of a section of officials of the Forest Department.
Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that within the last few years alone, a number of major cases of forest royalty evasion have been detected by the BIEO, that too in implementation of mega projects like construction of the national highways and gauge conversion of the Railways. Sources also said that such detections might turn out to be the tip of the iceberg as it is not possible for the BIEO to look into all the dealings between the Forest Department and contractors on payment of forest royalty.
Sources revealed that only in the gauge conversion work, the BIEO detected evasion of royalty amounting to more than Rs 20 crore. Sources pointed out that such evasion would not have been possible without the connivance of a section of Forest officials and contractors. Moreover, the concerned authorities should not have paid the bills of the contractors without verifying whether the forest royalty was paid.
Official sources said that same is the case with the construction of the national highways. In one case of construction of a National Highway 52 bypass, evasion of royalty amounting to more than Rs 2.50 crore was detected and the contractor was forced to pay the amount later. In another major incident, the BIEO detected evasion of forest royalty amounting to Rs 10.75 crore in the implementation of the Jogighopa-Maynaguri railway project.