GUWAHATI, Feb 2 - The Assembly today witnessed noisy scenes over the alleged running of an illegal syndicate by Forest Minister Pramila Rani Brahma, with Congress legislator Abdul Khalek and several Opposition members demanding a discussion on the matter inside the House. Assembly Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami told the Assembly that the minister would issue a statement later.
Raising the issue, Khalek questioned how the minister could authorize � that too using her official pad � any outsider to �act� on behalf of the Forest Department in blatant violation of laws and rules and undermining the officials of the department. He also expressed shock over the minister�s reported indignation over police action after the police arrested the persons over extortion charges.
At the heart of the controversy lies the minister�s official pad signed by Brahma herself, in which the names of three persons � Fazlur Rahman, Abdul Hai Nagarik and Raju Barman � were mentioned, stating that they should be �allowed� access to certain departmental activities.
The minister�s action, which was widely reported in the media, drew criticism from various quarters. On January 28, City Police (Basistha police station) arrested two of the �minister-appointed� youths but Brahma allegedly used her influence in getting them freed from police custody.
An unfazed Brahma, however, sought to justify her action by stating in the Assembly that the three youths were her spies to detect anomalies and that what was being done had nothing abhorrent about it.
Brahma also stated that the Forest Department had been �rotting� under large-scale corruption and anomalous practices, and attributed those to the previous Congress government. She added that she was trying hard to ensure that the department functioned efficiently and accountably.
Brahma was replying to questions from several legislators, including Bhabesh Kalita, Rituparna Baruah, Ashok Kumar Singhi, Ramendra Narayan Kalita, Sherman Ali Ahmed and Ashok Singhal, who alleged large-scale corruption in the department�s functioning and a spurt in polluting industries besides urging the minister to lift the ban on stone quarrying. Brahma said that those having licence for stone quarrying often violated the norms and indulged in earth-cutting as well, while some continued with their quarrying activities even after the expiry of their licences.
The minister added that the process for calling tenders was being started and that the quarrying and sand mining activities would be allowed in strict compliance with relevant laws and rules.
Brahma further said that the ambitious bamboo missions implemented in the State have flopped. �I have personally visited some bamboo plantation sites but there was not a single bamboo,� she said.
Speaker Goswami said that the minister should institute an inquiry into the anomalies in the bamboo missions.