Joint team formed to check illegal coal trade in city
A joint team comprising police, tax department officials and transport department personnel has been constituted to check the illegal coal trade in Guwahati.
A senior official of the transport department said, “All these days, the transport department officials were only slapping fines on overloaded coal-laden trucks entering Guwahati. Now the trucks will be seized and handed over to the police; even tax department officials will investigate whether the challans are genuine or not.”
After seven transport department officers were summoned by the criminal investigation department (CID) for their alleged involvement in the illegal coal trade, the department has cracked the whip on all the officials to ensure systematic checking of overloaded trucks.
A source in transport department said that since January 2018, around Rs 1 crore was recovered in fines from overloaded coal-laden trucks at Khanapara.
But only slapping fines does not seem to be the solution. “The tax department has to check the challans to find out if the coal brought to the city are legally mined,” said the transport department source.
Explaining why the involvement of tax department officials is important, the source said that in upper Assam (Lido, Lekhapani and Margherita) there are some mines belonging to Coal India Ltd and coal extracted from those mines gets transported legally by train.
But in the nearby coal mines of Meghalaya, the coal mafia extract the coal illegally for transportation and supply to Bihar and West Bengal. Such coal-laden trucks have to necessarily travel via Guwahati. Hence fake challans are created which only tax department officials can detect.
Trucks carrying coal from Meghalaya also are mostly overloaded and the same scrutiny needs to be implemented. The trucks are overloaded because trucks carrying the approved 9 tonnes of weight yield very less profit to the transporters.
The transport department has written to Meghalaya police and district administration of Ri Bhoi District to check the trucks.
The joint team has also been asked to verify all the owners of the coal depots located in Guwahati. The weigh bridges were operating without licences from the transport department. Therefore notices have been served for licenses to be procured at the earliest.
The transport department has also asked the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) to check if the coal depots have proper trade licenses.
The joint team has also been asked to mandate CCTV cameras at all the weigh bridges.
CID likely to grill more transport dept officials
More transport officials are likely to be grilled by the criminal investigation department (CID) which is probing the illegal coal syndicate case.
Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), CID, Nirmal Baishya said, “Some more officials will be summoned soon for investigation.”
On enquiring if any IAS level officer of the transport department will be quizzed, Baishya said, “All the officers are under our scanner.”
The complaint, according to him, was against the transport department, some politicians and the police. Therefore anyone might be summoned if the investigation so requires.
The seven transport officers who were grilled earlier in the case are Enforcement Inspector (EI) Chitra Kumar Nath, Assistant Enforcement Inspector (AEI) Tapu Ram Bora, AEI Anurag Sandilya, AEI Bedanta Gogoi, Enforcement Checker (EC) Mrigen Sharma, EC Madhav Neog and former Kamrup (Metro) District Transport Officer (Enforcement) Prasanjit Ghosh.
The CID has not yet arrested any transport department official, but sources in CID said some officials might be arrested soon.
Meanwhile, the transport department has transferred Prasanjit Ghosh, DTO (Enforcement), to Sonitpur.