JORABAT, July 26 - A limestone syndicate, believed to be one of the biggest of its kind after coal, is allegedly running on the outskirts of Guwahati, thanks to a nexus between a section of government officials and mafia, causing a huge loss to the government exchequer.
According to sources, around 130 to 140 limestone-laden trucks enter Assam from Byrnihat everyday to meet the demands of cement factories flourishing in and around Jorabat.
The permissible quantity of limestones, as per the challans issued by the Meghalaya forest office, is 9 metric tonnes (MT), but the trucks carrying limestones from Meghalaya to Assam reportedly carry around 35 to 40 MT each, and they are able to do so by �managing� corrupt forest officials, it is alleged.
Last afternoon, based on a secret information, a section of mediapersons visited the Marakdala Beat Office under the Sonapur forest range and found the syndicate to be active throughout the day.
While interacting with the truckers at the Forest Beat Office, it was learnt that the truckers pay Rs 500 as levied charge and another Rs 200 for every limestone-laden truck as per the amount set at the beat office.
When contacted, DFO Rajib Baruah denied having any knowledge of the corrupt practices of the officials and suggested that the mediapersons contact the Beat Officer in this regard.
Marakdala Beat Officer Abdul Rashid, commenting on the issue, said, �The Forest department does not have a right to check the overloaded trucks, as the allowed quantity, mentioned in the challans of these limestone carrying trucks from Meghalaya, is issued in terms of metric tonnes. But, we can check the overload if the challans are issued with the carrying capacity being mentioned in centimetres.�
Asked about the illegal collection of money from the truckers, he washed his hands off by saying that he is not aware if any of his staff is involved in any illegality. He also did not seem to have any answer as to why he, being the Beat Officer of Marakdala, has failed to inform the Transport department about the issue of overloaded trucks moving regularly into Assam in such large numbers.
A section of conscious local people also expressed their displeasure over the issue. �It is very unethical for a government official to remain silent on such an issue, even after knowing that this is resulting in a huge revenue loss to the government,� they said.
It will now be interesting to see if the government initiates an inquiry into the matter to ascertain which departments are involved in the syndicate and why the Beat Officer is unaware of the developments despite being in such a responsible post.