| Members of Forum of Conscious Citizens take part in a dharna in Guwahati on Wednesday. Picture by UB Photos |
Guwahati, Sept. 11: A citizens’ forum that helped Assam police expose syndicates in fish, eggs, poultry and betel leaf trade alleged today that the state government had failed to curb extortion and control prices.
Members of the Forum for Conscious Citizens staged a demonstration here demanding continuation of the drive against syndicates and those illegally collecting money from food item importers. They said this was essential to control prices.
The forum’s president, Utpal Das, told The Telegraph that based on seven FIRs lodged by them, more than 30 people were arrested. But the administration failed to take steps to dismantle the syndicates, he said, adding the accused went back to business after being released on bail. “Mere arrest of a few people will not rein in syndicates. The administration should reach the root of the problem and carry out a continuous drive. But we have seen that the administration is not taking practical steps to remove the syndicates. As a result, prices of food items in the markets have not gone down,” Das said.
The police arrested three members — Maina Paul, Dhruba Deka and Jai Prakash Yadav — of a fish co-operative society here in April on charges of illegal collection of money from traders importing fish from Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The illegal collections made fish prices rise in both wholesale and retail markets.
Similarly, at least 10 persons were arrested last month who, according to the police, were collecting Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 from each truck entering Assam with eggs at the inter-state check gate at Chagolia.
The police action against syndicates was initiated soon after Assam additional chief secretary H.S. Das, in a letter to the chief secretary, stated that prices of fish and eggs were shown less at the check gates, though they were being sold at much higher prices in markets.
The forum today said the administration merely made the arrests and did not take steps to root out the practice of illegal collection of money. “On August 30, we had lodged an FIR with video evidence of illegal collection of money at a toll gate in Dhubri district but no action has been initiated yet. We had also submitted copies to the director-general of police and chief minister Tarun Gogoi. Besides, a group of people is collecting money from labourers at BG Yard in Guwahati. We suspect that the administration stopped the drive because these criminals have political connections and even fund parties,” Das said.
He demanded strict action against officials of the state food and civil supplies department found involved with those running syndicates.
“The district administration should put up hoardings in and around all markets displaying both wholesale and retail prices of food items,” Das added.