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Assam extortion racket
GUWAHATI, AUG 18 (AGENCIES):
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Published on 19 Aug. 2010 12:26 AM IST
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Vehicles carrying forest produce in Assam are forced to pay a certain illegal tax to the Forest Department.
NDTV investigated the scam of illegal check gates in the state and found documentary proof of a well organized extortion racket run by government employees.
In reply to a RTI filed, the office of the Chief Conservator of Forests informed that the state has 32 approved forest check gates.
However, on taking a tour of the city, atleast seven check gates that had no mention in the list were found including one at Khanapara, right below the Chief Minister’s residence.
Another check gate at Lokhra in Garalia in South Guwahati, curiously had the word ‘Checkgate’ replaced by ‘Forest camp’ when camps are ideally inside forest reserves or national parks and not on national highways.
Even though Amulya Mahanta, in charge of the camp, says these temporary shelters are only meant for checking transit passes but money is extorted from every vehicle carrying forest produce without issuing any receipts.
At yet another unlisted check gate in Saraighat Bridge on the Brahmaputra, just outside Guwahati city, money was being collected from every vehicle carrying forest produce. On being asked, the staff refused to explain why they were collecting money and ran away.
Even National Highways Authority of India trucks carrying material for East West Corridor are not spared.
“We have to pay every time we pass by. It’s around 150 rupees,” said a driver.
Sand and stones get away with a hundred and fifty rupees but timber comes at Rs. 4000 to Rs. 6000 for a truckload. It’s unlikely that such an extortion racket is run without the approval of the highest officers in the department.

 
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