Broom traders and farmers of Garo Hills have written a complaint to Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma alleging that the Forest Department of the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) been extorting money from them in the name of collecting royalties despite broom being exempt from taxes.
According to the complaint, the illegal collections were being undertaken in the villages of Rongjeng in East Garo Hills and Bajengdoba in North Garo Hills.
Earlier, the state government had declared phul jharu as an agro product and an agricultural asset. The declaration came through an amendment passed in the Assembly and gave relief to broom farmers from being taxed. However, despite the exemption, the GHADC has continued to auction jharu mahals to various lessees, allowing them to collect money from broom traders – an act that is completely illegal in the current context.
“The collections done by the GHADC Forest Department is completely illegal as they cannot collect money even for transit pass,” said the traders in their complaint submitted yesterday.
Furthermore, the Meghalaya government in January 2020 passed a proposal to waive export duties on forest products like broom, bamboo and others with the Deputy Chief Minister, Prestone Tynsong, asking that no taxes be collected on these products.
The complainants urged the CM to immediately take action against the illegal tax collectors and close down such activities for the benefit of farmers and traders of forest products.