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Opp demands central probe into ‘smuggling’ of betel nuts

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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, Feb 27: The Opposition TMC on Tuesday demanded of the state government to rope in central agencies to probe the ‘illegal’ import of high-quality dried betel nuts from Bangladesh into Meghalaya.
Participating in the general discussion on the budget in the Assembly, TMC legislator Dr Mukul Sangma emphasised on the need to involve central agencies since this illegality is not confined to the boundaries of the state.
He also urged upon the state government to peruse the inquiry report as per the order issued by the previous Deputy Commissioner of North Garo Hills into the alleged illegality.
Sangma mentioned that the DC had, on January 4 this year, instituted an inquiry headed by Additional District Magistrate N Hajong to probe the allegedly illegal import of high quality dry betel nut from Bangladesh through different networks along the international border.
The TMC legislator questioned the fate of the inquiry in light of the transfer of the North Garo Hills DC, Kumari Mithali Chandra, who had issued an order to institute this inquiry.
The former DC had initiated an investigation after a Garo Hills-based group called Achik Youth Council (AYC) lodged a complaint over alleged illegal smuggling of betel nuts from Bangladesh through various borders of the state.
The AYC had asserted that dried betel nut was being brought from Burma through Bangladesh and through the Dawki-Nongstoin, Shallang, Songsak-Medipathar, and Rongjeng-Dainadubi routes, with the final destination being Matia, Assam. These are then sold to various markets in the country with some companies even buying the smuggled material.
Appreciating the district administration for taking the step to constitute an inquiry, Sangma alleged that the transfer of the official was very efficient and smooth in order to protect those involved in the illegalities.
He further questioned if the probe is still on or if somebody has undone the institution of the inquiry, while emphasising on the continuity of governance.
“I would like to know about the status of this inquiry and let’s be honest to our farmers. Today, buyers are not coming to buy these areca nuts, and what shall we do? Shall we bring these areca nuts to the Secretariat? If the government doesn’t rectify it, we will bring all areca nuts to the Secretariat,” he warned.
Drawing comparisons between the government’s intention to help farmers and the ground reality, the former Chief Minister said the prices of areca nut and turmeric have dropped drastically as compared to last year.
“Our farmers have taken areca nut plantation as one of the main means of income. I hope that we will all take cognizance of this serious deprivation faced by our farmers resulting in reduction of their income,” he said.
TAXES
The Opposition TMC leader recalled how in the preceding years prior to GST, there would be discussion on the imposition of taxes in the budget. “But with the adoption of GST, we don’t have that. We need to remind ourselves about what is happening across the country, how the GST councils are actually deciding on number of taxes that are being imposed but not brought to the notice of this House,” he said.
He also pointed out that tax levied on cement is 28 per cent, among the highest in the slabs of GST. “Every poor family will invest on cement to build a respectable place,” Sangma said.
He then questioned if the imposition of higher taxes is prioritised well enough.
(Contd on P-4)
Opp demands central probe…
(Contd from P-3) “We must put our points very clear as to where the tax should be reasonably increased or reasonably decreased,” the TMC MLA said.
Sangma said that the people are unaware about how and when taxes are increasing. “The GST is calculated on percentage basis. So if something which we are buying at Rs 1,000, becomes Rs 2,000, then it means we are paying double the tax. Therefore, these revenue receipts are bound to increase,” the former CM said.
He urged the government to ensure they put their foot down when taxes are being discussed.

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