The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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GRP ‘protection’ for smugglers

Cooch Behar, June 17: Trees felled illegally in the Dooars forests are being smuggled to Bangladesh through the Bamunhat border by train right under the noses of the GRP.

The timber mafia that control the smuggling racket are getting the trees cut into planks so that they can be easily transported in the two pairs of passenger trains running daily between Alipurduar and Bamunhat in Dinhata. The entire operation is done in a blatant manner causing inconveniences to passengers.

The divisional forest officer of the Cooch Behar, Kousik Sarkar, said the attention of the divisional railway manager of the Northeast Frontier Railway had been drawn to this alarming activity. “Recently, we seized 40 cubic feet of timber with the help of the railways. But it has to be stopped,” Sarkar said.

Passengers, who commute on the 73-kilometre route, alleged that loading and unloading of timber were a common sight and the GRP personnel were part of the racket. The wood being smuggled was sal and teak as recent seizures have revealed.

A passenger, who travels between Alipurduar and Dinhata regularly, said almost everyday the mafia use the floor of the bogies to keep the planks. “How can we protest? The armed GRP men stand guard over the timber,” he said.

The forest officials were, however, not clear how the racket was operated. “It is difficult to say from where the timber is originating — whether they came from the Dooars or from the forests in adjoining Assam. But we have seized mainly sal that has come from sawmills. We are keeping a constant vigil,” Sarkar said.

The divisional railway manager of Alipurduar, A.K. Jha, said he was inquiring into the matter.

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