GUWAHATI, April 8 – Alleging that a nefarious nexus of mafia, government officials, police and politicians were behind the flourishing illegal syndicates, public activist Prof Deven Dutta said that the sudden drive against syndicates was driven more by political compulsion rather than genuine intent.
“The State Government’s ongoing crackdown on the egg, fish and pan syndicates at Paltan Bazaar smacks of settling a political score with the dissident camp rather than motivated by concerns for public welfare. Illegal syndicates have been controlling almost every trade in the State – be it fish, fruits, vegetables, bricks, sand, timber, construction materials, etc., with the blessings of the government authorities themselves,” Prof Dutta said at a press conference on Sunday.
Stating that the drive against syndicates was unlikely to be a sustained affair given that an entire chain of the government machinery including politicians was a part of the syndicate, Prof Dutta said that following the crackdown at Paltan Bazaar, the mafia had instructed the fish suppliers to stop supply of fish from Andhra Pradesh for creating artificial scarcity.
“This has been done with the motive to create the impression that even after the crackdown on the fish syndicate, price of fish has remained the same. Shortage of supply is bound to have an escalating impact on fish price but that will be interpreted in a different manner,” Prof Dutta said.
Prof Dutta said that while the price of eggs had come down a bit following the drive against syndicates, it should actually be even less than what it was now.
Prof Dutta said that those running the illegal syndicates had nothing to do with the trade, and had imposed themselves on the traders with muscle power and gun power.
“Those running syndicates are not themselves traders but have imposed themselves on the trader through intimidation and force. The government machinery, too, has allowed such blatant illegalities, as it is among the beneficiaries,” he said, adding that the opposition parties, too, had never raised the issue in the Assembly.
Prof Dutta also criticized the intellectual circles for their silence on the scourge which was behind the skyrocketing price of almost every commodity.
On the issue of the mega hydro-electric project being implemented by the National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) at Gerukamukh, Prof Dutta said that lack of a united opposition from the various protesting bodies had done a lot of damage to the mass campaign against the big dam.
“A number of organizations are engaged in protest against the big dam but the fact that they have failed to put up a united stand has harmed their cause. Even now, they should unite and launch a concerted campaign,” Prof Dutta said.
Prof Dutta said that the perennially backward districts of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji, and the river island Majuli, would have to bear the brunt of the adverse downstream impact of the dam, especially if it collapsed.
“The dam is located at the very site where a fallen peak had obstructed the course of the Subansiri after the 1950 earthquake leading to an unprecedented flash flood causing widespread devastation,” Prof Dutta who visited the Gerukamukh site on March 29, said.
Prof Dutta criticized the public representatives for taking the side of the NHPC over what was essentially a life-and-death issue for the people.
Prof Dutta said that large-scale corruption was at the root of the backwardness of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji, and cited the examples of two fishery and piggery projects that had served only to flatten the pockets of the nexus of contractors, officials and politicians.
“Over Rs 2 crore and Rs 1.45 crore were released for the fishery and the piggery respectively at Gogamukh. Several years down the line, nothing has been accomplished, as the projects remain almost in an abandoned state. This is the picture of a shinning Assam the Chief Minister so often seeks to present,” he said.
Prof Dutta said that the lot of the poor people was unlikely to witness any change as long as unabated corruption hampers implementation of development projects.
“In the name of opening a fishery, a plot of forestland has been fenced without digging any pond at a cost of Rs 2 crore. This is the model of development the Government boasts about,” he said.