The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Highway getaway for timber mafia

Raiganj, Nov. 8: Lax security measures on and around National Highway 31 have led to a spurt in timber smuggling, mostly from the Dooars.

The mafia has actually hit upon ingenious ways — the smugglers know how to mark the illegally-felled timbers — to give the “unsuspecting policeman the slip”, said forest department officials.

Admitting to the growing menace, Raiganj divisional forest officer Ajoy Kumar Das said special measures are being taken to curb the problem. Police sources confirmed that there has been an “abnormal rise” in the illegal felling of timber in recent times.

The problem is not only acute in the Dooars but also in both the Dinajpur districts. The smugglers have found an easy conduit in the 600-km road-link between Siliguri and Calcutta and that, officials said, was the primary reason behind the flourish of the lucrative trade.

At present, the forest department has a lone checkpost at Chopra in North Dinajpur. If the smugglers manage to evade the forest officials there, the rest of the route is a freeway, sources said.

The police are too caught up with routine activities and are often not in a position to keep tabs on the timber mafia. To make matters worse, the law-breakers have recently come up with a “new route to evade the Chopra check post”.

“Usually, the Calcutta-bound trucks carrying illegally-felled timber start from Siliguri and head for Bihar via Bidhannagar Bypass. The vehicles hit the NH-31 only at the Purnea More in Dalkhola, where the highway security is extremely lax,” forest sources said.

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