| Akhil Gogoi |
Borjhar, Sept. 14: KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi today backed the demand of sand traders to abolish the mahaldari system.
Attending the demonstration staged by sand traders of South Kamrup at Kukurmara forest depot in Kamrup district, the KMSS leader said the system was a “colonial-age baggage”, which can be traced to the Forest Regulation Act, 1891.
Under the system, a group of villagers were entrusted with the task of collecting revenue from their respective mahals, or communities.
Terming the sand traders’ movement a “patriotic act”, Gogoi said their demand for abolition of the mahaldari system and direct revenue collection by the government should be supported.
There are 11 sand mahals under Kamrup West forest division.
The KMSS leader also warned sand traders not to embrace the syndicate culture.
“Trading activities should be pro-people. The need of the hour is an increase in labour wages to cope with rising prices of essential commodities,” Akhil said.
Nearly 50,000 people, comprising sand lifters from the riverbeds, suppliers and transporters, among others, are dependent on the trade.
The KMSS leader alleged that the natural resource-rich south Kamrup is being exploited to the hilt but no development activities are undertaken. “Our demand is not to go with the tender system, which will start from September 16,” said Ratul Bora, the publicity secretary of Dakhin Kamrup Central Sand Traders Sanstha.
Going by the new tender system, the traders will have to invest lakhs of rupees in the trade, something they cannot afford.
The traders insisted that the tender system should be replaced with direct revenue collection.
“If the government collects Rs 200 from per 1 cubic metre sand, then monthly amount of revenue collection from 500 sand-laden trucks will be 30 lakh,” one of them said.
According to them, revenue loss and illegal mining will come to an end if revenue is collected directly by the forest department.
Sand is mainly mined from Kalahi, Batha, Shingra and Kharkhari under Kamrup West forest division.
Around 5,000 to 6,000 cubic metres of is transported every month from these rivers.
Sources criticised the forest department’s decision to fix Rs 600 as the price for each cubic metre of sand.
At this rate, 230 cubic metres of sand will have to be extracted daily from the riverbeds.
“A matter of concern is that the new rate will see the price of this key construction material shoot up, making it unavailable for the middle class. From Rs 1,000 per cubic metre, price of sand in Guwahati will shoot up to Rs 3,000, adversely affecting construction activities,” Tapan Doley, a sand trader, said.