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Cachar turns haven for agar smugglers

- Duo arrested at airport part of Mumbai gang

Silchar, Feb. 24: Cachar district has of late turned out to be the favourite conduit for illegally transporting lucrative agar wood from Manipur, where agar trees are grown in plenty, to Mumbai for making perfumes, which are in great demand abroad.

This grim fact was unearthed on February 6 when district police, on specific information, stumbled on a two-member gang of agar smugglers at Kumbhirgram airport near this town when it was readying to elude past the security in a bid to carry the banned contraband through a national carrier to Maharashtra — its take-off point for smuggling it abroad.

The conservator of forests in south Assam districts, Abdul Shahid Choudhury, recently said the secret ploy of getting past the security scanner at the airport was foiled when airport staff discovered during checking 33kg of the high value agar wood hidden in their suitcases.

He added that the district forest office was immediately informed and following an extensive interrogation, the two smugglers, part of a well-heeled gang of Mumbai-based agar smugglers, were handed over to the police.

The smuggler duo have been identified as Matiur Rahaman and Nazimul Haque, who hailed from Hojai in Nagaon district but are now engaged in the booming smuggling trade of agar wood in Mumbai.

Forest department sources said they were booked under the Assam Forest Act.

During interrogation, the arrested duo had confessed that they had procured the agar wood from the dense and thick forests in Jiribam subdivision of Cachar district.

According to district forest sources, the oil of this deciduous tree is used to manufacture different types of perfumes, and it is highly coveted among Muslims.

The tree was first widely planted in the Barak valley districts in the thirties by its pioneer planters who had migrated from Bangladesh’s Sylhet district.

The district forest office sources revealed that because of over-exploitation of the agar wood, the trees in a natural process had died, forcing its cultivators to look to further east to Manipur, from where the logs are nowadays brought here clandestinely and then put on the smuggling trail.

The smuggling trade fetches a high profit. According to informed sources, at present, agar wood commands a price of Rs 70,000 per kg but it goes up manifold when it is sent to foreign shores.