A candidate in the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) allegedly tried to convince the council’s forest range officials in Phulbari, West Garo Hills, that a consignment of felled trees were not illegal timber but was rather meant as innocent firewood.
It began on February 22 when GHADC forest range officials seized a pickup truck with timber near the village of Gomaijhora. The vehicle (ML 10A 5539) did not have any valid papers to prove that the timber was legally procured or transported. It is suspected that the consignment was on its way to an illegal saw mill in Assam.
However, the GHADC’s Forest Department was later approached by an MDC hopeful who tried to convince officials that the timber was, in fact, firewood meant for a local mosque and insisted that it be released. A senior forest range official also argued the same and tried to get the vehicle and its cargo released.
Despite these efforts, though, there was intense opposition to the machinations and the vehicle and timber, at the time of filing this report, remain within the office of the GHADC in Phulbari.
“The matter is extremely condemnable. When the protectors of our forests as well as local leaders start working in tandem with smugglers, things can only get worse. The matter needs to be investigated by GHADC authorities and the official responsible for trying to cover up a crime needs to be booked. It is clearly not firewood,” said a local resident, SR Sangma.