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Sonowal challenged to undertake joint visit to Tinsukia rain forests

By Spl Correspondent
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NEW DELHI, June 25 - Dismissing claims by the Assam government, Congress Lok Sabha MP Pradyut Bordoloi on Tuesday challenged the Sarbananda Sonowal administration to undertake a joint visit to the rain forests in Tinsukia district to verify the allegations of massive destruction of the greenery by the coal mafia in connivance with the district administration and forest department.

The joint visit may be undertaken by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, State minister Chandra Mohan Patowary and a team of media professionals, environmentalists and forest department officials, besides himself, the Lok Sabha MP from Nagaon said. �I am giving them 15 days time and if they don�t come forward, then I will go to various forums to highlight the issue,� he said.

Bordoloi claimed that he has in his possession all the evidence to prove his allegations, including satellite images, shots taken by drones, photographs and maps to show that 20,000 hectares of forest area have been destroyed due to rat hole mining and massive deforestation.

Displaying satellite images, Bordoloi claimed that photos taken in 2016 and this year clearly showed the difference. He named 11 reserve forests covering an area of 20,440 hectares, which have fallen into the clutches of the coal mafia.

He said that in Tinsukia district the last remnants of the world famous and endangered rain forest, which falls under the Digboi Forest Division extending up to Myanmar, have been systematically destroyed over the last three and a half years. Besides the rain forest, elephant corridors have also been wiped out, he said.

Bordoloi also claimed to have proof that two baby elephants, which fell into rat hole mines, were buried alive by the coal mafia fearing public outcry. He also claimed that there are reports of a number of workers dying in accidents while working in the rat hole mines.

Estimating that monthly around Rs 300 crore worth of transaction was taking place, he said that heavy duty trailers, 20-tyre trucks, etc., were being used to smuggle the illegal coals. The local administration, forest department, police and a section of the media were hand in glove with the coal syndicate, Bordoloi alleged.

When asked, the Lok Sabha MP said the Assam government�s request for a CBI probe has been rejected because the terms of reference were very weak. An inquiry by the CID into the racket is an eyewash, as many top politicians of the BJP were hand in glove with the coal mafia.

Bordoloi said that a petition is also pending with the National Green Tribunal, but nothing has come out of it so far. He also named some BJP functionaries who are directly involved with the racket even as the Sonowal government has been turning a blind eye to these activities.

On Monday, Patowary had clarified that a state-level monitoring committee has been appointed to prevent syndicates and all police superintendents have been directed to report daily seizures and arrests. The minister also rubbished allegations of the Nagaon MP that a coal syndicate was thriving in the State under the direct patronage of the Chief Minister�s Office. The �baseless charges� were an attempt to malign the clean image of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, he had said.

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Sonowal challenged to undertake joint visit to Tinsukia rain forests

NEW DELHI, June 25 - Dismissing claims by the Assam government, Congress Lok Sabha MP Pradyut Bordoloi on Tuesday challenged the Sarbananda Sonowal administration to undertake a joint visit to the rain forests in Tinsukia district to verify the allegations of massive destruction of the greenery by the coal mafia in connivance with the district administration and forest department.

The joint visit may be undertaken by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, State minister Chandra Mohan Patowary and a team of media professionals, environmentalists and forest department officials, besides himself, the Lok Sabha MP from Nagaon said. �I am giving them 15 days time and if they don�t come forward, then I will go to various forums to highlight the issue,� he said.

Bordoloi claimed that he has in his possession all the evidence to prove his allegations, including satellite images, shots taken by drones, photographs and maps to show that 20,000 hectares of forest area have been destroyed due to rat hole mining and massive deforestation.

Displaying satellite images, Bordoloi claimed that photos taken in 2016 and this year clearly showed the difference. He named 11 reserve forests covering an area of 20,440 hectares, which have fallen into the clutches of the coal mafia.

He said that in Tinsukia district the last remnants of the world famous and endangered rain forest, which falls under the Digboi Forest Division extending up to Myanmar, have been systematically destroyed over the last three and a half years. Besides the rain forest, elephant corridors have also been wiped out, he said.

Bordoloi also claimed to have proof that two baby elephants, which fell into rat hole mines, were buried alive by the coal mafia fearing public outcry. He also claimed that there are reports of a number of workers dying in accidents while working in the rat hole mines.

Estimating that monthly around Rs 300 crore worth of transaction was taking place, he said that heavy duty trailers, 20-tyre trucks, etc., were being used to smuggle the illegal coals. The local administration, forest department, police and a section of the media were hand in glove with the coal syndicate, Bordoloi alleged.

When asked, the Lok Sabha MP said the Assam government�s request for a CBI probe has been rejected because the terms of reference were very weak. An inquiry by the CID into the racket is an eyewash, as many top politicians of the BJP were hand in glove with the coal mafia.

Bordoloi said that a petition is also pending with the National Green Tribunal, but nothing has come out of it so far. He also named some BJP functionaries who are directly involved with the racket even as the Sonowal government has been turning a blind eye to these activities.

On Monday, Patowary had clarified that a state-level monitoring committee has been appointed to prevent syndicates and all police superintendents have been directed to report daily seizures and arrests. The minister also rubbished allegations of the Nagaon MP that a coal syndicate was thriving in the State under the direct patronage of the Chief Minister�s Office. The �baseless charges� were an attempt to malign the clean image of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, he had said.