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Broom traders and farmers in Garo Hills submitted a complaint to Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma through the Deputy Commissioner of East Garo Hills, alleging that the forest department of the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) had been extorting money in the name of “forest royalty” from them, despite (phul jharu) brooms being exempted from taxes.
According to the complaint, the illegal collection allegedly took place at Rongjeng in East Garo Hills (EGH) and Bajengdoba in North Garo Hills.
Earlier, the state government had declared ‘phul jharu’ as an agro product and an agricultural asset. The declaration came through an amendment passed in the State Assembly and gave relief to broom farmers from paying taxes.
However, despite the exemption, the GHADC allegedly continued to auction jharu mahals to various lessees, allowing them to collect money from broom traders.
“The collections by the GHADC forest department is completely illegal as they cannot collect money even for a transit pass,” said the traders in their complaint submitted on January 28.
The state government, on January 12, had passed the proposal to waive export duties on forest products like broom and bamboo among others, with Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong stating that they would not tax these products.
The complainants urged the Chief Minister to take action against the illegal tax collectors and to put a stop to such activities.
(Edited by Ladiangti Rani)