TURA, June 23 � It was long suspected that personnel from the Border Security Force (BSF) posted in the Garo Hills sector were involved in smuggling timber to neighbouring Bangladesh but evidence was scant until this week when State Forest department personnel came across a truck laden with freshly felled sal timber deep inside Baghmara reserve forest in South Garo Hills.
A forest protection party of the Forest Department on routine patrol came across a BSF truck (AS01 Q 0687) that belonged to 40 Bn of the BSF based at Dobasipara camp in Tura. The truck was loaded with the freshly cut trees and those involved had even made an attempt to conceal the identity of the
vehicle using a mixture of diesel and mud to avoid detection.
Forerst officials found 1.487 cubic meters of sal (Shorea robusta) timber inside the truck and confiscated the logs. The same truck was spotted a day earlier collecting timber inside another part of the reserve forest that spans over an area of roughly 400 hectares.
The Baghmara Reserve Forest is one of the most densely forested areas of Garo Hills with a rich bio-diversity. Its proximity to Bangladesh, which is just a stone�s throw away, hasn�t helped matters.
Timber smugglers would take advantage of the monsoons to fell the trees and push it down to the mighty Simsang river that flows into the neighbouring country.
To check the cross border smuggling and to act as a deterrent, the BSF is on deployment all through the border. Sadly, the very force that was to check illegal activites today stands accused of being a part of the smuggling racket.
Despite the overwhelming evidence of involvement by BSF personnel its senior officials refuse to accept blame.
The BSF Deputy Inspector General GS Chaudhry, quoting his company commander has informed members of the press that the men went inside the forest to collect firewood. He added that his office has received a complaint and action would be taken if any personnel was found guilty of involvement.
In the meantime, the Range Forest Officer has served a show cause notice to one Daram Dayal, the BSF constable who was caught leading the team involved in the illegal felling.
�There have been many pending complaints against BSF for their alleged involvement with timber collection from reserve forests of Garo Hills,� informed PR Marak, DFO (Territorial) of Garo Hills.
The involvement of senior officials is not being ruled out given that the scale of the illegal smuggling which went beyond the powers of junior constables.
There has been tremendous pressure on smuggling of timber to Bangladesh and there have been reports of involvement of Bangladeshis in timber smuggling in the Balpakram Baghmara Landscape.
Wildlife activitists in Garo Hills reveal that smuggling of timber still remains rampant despite strong border fencing. Most smuggling continues to occur through the riverine route.
Baghmara Reserve Forest is a crucial wildlife habitat that is home to key species such as the Asian wild elephant, marbled cat, hoolock gibbon, leopard, Malayan giant squirrel, clouded leopard among others.