Forest staffers helping boulder smugglers

Gaighat, May 11

Forest staffers of Udayapur have allegedly been working in cahoots with the officials of local forest users’ groups to smuggle boulders out of community forests in the district for long.

According to Ketu Chaudhary, a local, more than 30 tractors of boulder is smuggled from the forest area on a daily basis.

“Among others, smuggling is rampant at Kuntimai, Shibababa and Sihawati community forests. The boulder is smuggled to India via Phattepur in Saptari,” said Chaudhary, ruing the nonchalant attitude of the concerned authorities towards this illegal activity.

“Authorities at the forest office and those in the forest users’ groups are accountable for conservation of forests, but they have turned a blind eye to the smuggling, and sometimes even helped, by lining their pockets,” Chaudhary added.

According to local sources, the smugglers are paying Rs 500 and Rs 200 to the area forest office chief and the forest users’ group chairperson, respectively for each tractor of boulder.

As per the existing rule, no one can extract any sort of forest product from the forest areas without the permission of the concerned forest staff and chairperson of the forest users’ group.

On his part, Hadiya Area Forest Office Chief Shatrughan Thakur denied there was any involvement of the forest staff in the smuggling of boulders from forest areas.

“There is no complicity whatsoever. As all security personnel go patrolling, we are unaware of any smuggling if it happens at all,” he said, pledging to book the staffs if found guilty.