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Smuggling of Red Sanders to China
Correspondent DIPHU, SEPT 1:
Published on 2 Sep. 2009 12:24 AM IST
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Smuggling of Sander wood or Red Sender from south India to China through Karbi Anglong district of Assam, since year 2002 has raised doubts about the actual use of the material in foreign countries. Consignment of red Sander wood packed in covered trucks, armed with all type of documents neatly forged, that too accompanied by so-called government officials of Forest department of Andhra Pradesh reaches Myanmar through Moreh, the last border of North East India before being smuggled to China through Kachin valley. These activities have been taking place at a time when blanket ban on felling and logging of timber imposed by the Supreme Court was in force throughout the nation. Startling revelations have been made by the Ministry of Environment & Forest, Government of India including other concerned agencies like Bureau of Economic Offences, Government of India, Revenue Intelligence, Government of India in their letters to the Chief Secretary, Government of Assam and the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Assam regarding clandestine removal of Red Sanders ( Pterocarpus santalinus), a rare timber species listed under the CITES originating from Samelashor adjacent to Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Red Sanders is included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species (CITES) of Flora and Fauna. It also finds a place in the ‘Negative listed’ species of the EXIM policy of Government of India. Forest officials including the DFO Jivananda Hazarika , AFS are allegedly the mastermind behind such nefarious activities which could amount to criminal misconduct for personal pecuniary benefits. On examination of entire records as made available in the office of the Conservator of Forest, Karbi Anglong by this Correspondent, the following details were found: A truck loads of Red Sanders consisting of small pieces of timber Beads were seized at Khatkhati gate under the Bokajan Police Station and handed over to the Range Officer, Bokajan Range for appropriate action in the matter by the DFO, Hazarika during the first part of the year. Subsequently, the timbers which weighed some 16,000 Kgs were shown as unclaimed property while the truck was also seized and detained. Without the approval of the Court, the DFO had taken initiative to dispose off the seized Red Sanders for reasons best known to himself. As per the records, in the second week of February 2009, short tender notices were shown floated which in fact remained as office record to camouflage the secret deal with the persons/smugglers with tacit understanding. The DFO also dared to fix a rate of rupees four lakhs fifty thousand for the mentioned commodity as the government approved rate which however was non-existent as the commodity was listed under the CITES and banned for exportation outside the country. For safe transportation of the banned species, the DFO also had shown sale of four timber loads of Teak. In the third week of February, he had sent the proposal to the Council authority for settlement of the timber loads including the Red Sanders for rupees seven lakhs fifty thousand to the second bidder (stated to be the regular bidder) in the name of a Karbi girl, named Sangeeta Teronpi (a student) who happened to be the eldest daughter of one serving LD Assistant named Rekha Baruah under the establishment of the DFO. Interestingly, there were murmurs among the forest fraternity of East Division that Baruah was distantly related to the DFO, Hazarika. Records showed that Sangeeta Teronpi, a Karbi girl residing at Diphu had managed to pay the value of the loads for Red Sanders as settled in her name by handing over all the Call Deposits from the Banks at Imphal. The question arises as to how this young girl could manage for a Call Deposit worth rupees seven lakhs fifty thousand at Imphal instead of Diphu. In the first week of March -09 entire commodity of Red Sanders were allowed safe transportation by issuing Transit Passes to Moreh for further transportation to China which was revealed in a letter from the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Assam to the Conservator of Forest, Karbi Anglong. The Conservator of Forest, Karbi Anglong had written to the Principal Secretary, Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council on February 17 cautioning not to settle the load for Red Sanders to the bidder as the commodity was listed under the CITES and banned by the Government of India. Surprisingly, the DFO managed to get the loads settled particularly for the Red Sanders only in the name of Sangeeta Teronpi without appreciating the gravity and import of the letter of Conservator of Forest which simply remained as a concocted document in the file of the Conservator of Forest, Karbi Anglong. An investigation into the matter by the authority concerned might also bring to light such otherwise scandalous fraudulent activities relating to disposal of Teak timbers at lower rates than the prescribed government royalty causing colossal loss to the Council as revealed in a different letter from the Conservator of Forest to the Council including the DFO. It has also been brought to light by the Conservator of Forest, Karbi Anglong in a letter to the concerned authorities that he could not complete the investigation as had been bestowed upon him personally by the PCCF, Assam, because of total non-cooperation by the DFO,. Jivananda Hazarika. The entire episode reveals that some forest officials including the DFO, Hazarika were in hand-in-gloves with the dreaded international smugglers for which the premier investigation agencies of the country were spending sleepless nights for probating such threats to the country as the same was believed to be used for production of heavy water in China for use in Nuclear Reactors. It may be mentioned that,alarmed by the increasing incidences of smuggling of the rare Red Sanders wood from the forests of Cuddapah, Kurnool, Ananthapur and Chitoor districts, the state government was set to request the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe the smuggling of the rare wood to other countries. The state government of Andhra Pradesh has agreed to request the CBI to probe the smuggling.

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