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Raid on Forest Officer’s House yields Rs 2 Crore in Cash, Gold and Animal Parts in Assam

After being suspended by the State government, Talukdar was produced in a special court

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Seized tiger skin Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Assam Police recovered animal parts, Rs 2 crore in cash and gold from two residences of a divisional forest officer (DFO) of Assam
  • He was initially caught red-handed by the anti-corruption officers while accepting a bribe of Rs 30,000 each from three truckers
  • After being suspended by the State government, Talukdar was produced in a special court on June 14, which has sent him to police remand

GUWAHATI: Assam Police have recovered animal parts including tiger skin, deer skin, ivory, Rs 2 crore in cash and about 1kg of gold jewellery from two residences of a Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Assam.

According to The Indian Express report, Mahat Chandra Talukdar, who has been posted as the divisional forest officer in northern Assam’s Dhemaji since 2014, was initially caught red-handed by the anti-corruption officers while accepting a bribe of Rs 30,000 each from three truckers, who transport forest produce, at his office on June 13.

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“We have arrested him after he was caught while accepting bribe. We raided his house on Monday evening. First, we raided his house in Dhemaji and then in Guwahati. We have seized the amount, his personal vehicles and other documents and bank passbooks. There were allegations against him that he demanded bribe from three suppliers. Investigating the matter, we have caught him red-handed,” said Assam Police PRO Rajib Saikia to Deccan Herald.

Pallet of seized raw ivory in US Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Pallet of seized raw ivory in US Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the next 24 hours, he was taken to Guwahati and his two residences in Dhemaji and Guwahati were raided where the police found the cash, gold and parts of wild animals. Also, the police did not rule out the possibility of him being linked to poachers considering the 89 rhinos who were killed by poachers from 1989-1983 in Kaziranga National Park where he was serving at that time. A rhino horn could be priced for Rs 1 crore in the international black market.

Forest Minister Pramila Rani Brahma said the arrested DFO could not get away. “He has been placed under suspension. We will go hard on all those who are involved in corrupt practices,” she said.

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After being suspended by the State government, Talukdar was produced in a special court on 14 June which has sent him to police remand.

After this case of corruption which was linked to Wildlife, the Gauhati High Court had asked the state government to frame appropriate rules under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, authorizing police to file charge-sheets in cases of wildlife crime.

-prepared by Pashchiema Bhatia, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @pashchiema

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Sambhar Lake Becomes Death Bed for Large Number of Birds

The excessive salt in the water led to the poisoning, causing hypernectremia, which is water deprivation due to sodium intoxication

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Sambhar Lake
After witnessing drought for many years, this year the Sambhar Lake, however, brimmed with water due to heavy rains. The inflow made the water toxic due to the change in its alkalinity. Pixabay

A deadly game of survival is on in the Sambhar lake of Rajasthan for decades — salt versus birds. The result came a few days back: thousands of birds were seen floating dead in the lake and their carcasses scattered on the edge of the 12 km catchment area.

The dead birds seen floating in this largest inland salt lake in the country, include plovers, common coot, black winged stilt, northern shovelers, ruddy shelduck, and pied avocet among many other migratory birds.

Harsh Vardhan, a renowned environmentalist, told IANS that no forest department official has ever been appointed to look after the lake. The lake comes under the Hindustan Salt Limited, a public limited enterprise formed in the post independence era to manufacture salt. Its job is to manufacture salt. So who should look after the lake; this has never been decided, he said.

The lake has not been handed to the forest department, and the area, where birds come, is no one’s land. Sambhar lake may be a part of the Hindustan Salt Ltd, but the company has nothing to do with the birds, he says.

The chief wildlife warden Arindam Tomar has maintained silence over the issue.

Even, Principal secretary, forest and environment Shreya Guha has washed her hands off the issue. All that she did was to a give statement that the Jaipur and Nagaur District Collectors have been asked to remove the bodies. She added that 4,800 birds have been dead till date, which is disputed by experts like Harsh Vardhan, who say that counting is not easy in the vast area.

Chief minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday held a meeting on the issue.

Sambhar Lake
A deadly game of survival is on in the Sambhar Lake of Rajasthan for decades — salt versus birds. Pixabay

Meanwhile, Harsh Vardhan questioned the presence of several private salt miners and entrepreneurs, who have set shops in and around the lake. “They dig tube wells which suck water from the land making it parched. The remaining water gets evaporated leaving crystal of salts which are packed and sold in gunny bags,” he said.

Lack of water and drought has haunted Sambhar lake for years. State government has been spending huge money to woo tourists through activities like mobiking, balloning, race, Bollywood shoots, etc. A resort on the rim of the lake showcases salt manufacturing for the tourists. Crores of Rupees have been spent on the upkeep of the narrow gauge train and watch stations, but birds and conversation issues were always overlooked.

As Sambhar lake went dry, concentration of salt deposits came up within it. The water from surrounding rivers, meant to flow into the lake, was diverted by the miners.

After witnessing drought for many years, this year the lake, however, brimmed with water due to heavy rains. The inflow made the water toxic due to the change in its alkalinity.

The excessive salt in the water led to the poisoning, causing hypernectremia, which is water deprivation due to sodium intoxication, Vardhan said.

It seems birds which came in high numbers due to high water quantity this season died due to hypernectermia after consuming their feed which is the planktons, the microrganisms found in water.

Sambhar Lake
The dead birds seen floating in this largest inland salt lake i.e Sambhar Lake in the country, include plovers, common coot, black winged stilt, northern shovelers, ruddy shelduck, and pied avocet among many other migratory birds. Wikimedia Commons

The only step that has ever been taken by any government in the state was in 1981 when it was decided to designate the site as wetland and was renamed as the Ramsar site.

According to an estimate, around 60,000 birds visited the lake in a year which has come down to less than 20,000.

Vardhan says that if the lake remains with the Hindustan Salt Limited, which has been a loss making unit since years or if it is handed over to the private operators, who do excessive mining of water, then the lake and the birds are sure to die.

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Experts like him want the lake to be handed over to the forest department which can develop it as a wetland. (IANS)