Adokgre farmers protest excessive taxes on brooms, seek redressal

Tura, Feb 10: Questioning the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) over the excessive taxes being sought from broom farmers of the Adokgre region in North Garo Hills, the Adokgre Farmers Association yesterday held a protest rally to seek redressal of their grievances.

The farmers’ association was joined in their protest by NGOs including KYO-Kharkutta, AHAM-Kharkutta, ADAPA-Dokongsi, Nokmas, Laskers and Sorders. The protest rally was held at the Adokgre playground under Kharkutta Block in NGH.

During the protest the farmers decided to approach appropriate authorities in the government seeking to prohibit jharu mahalder to collect tax on broomsticks, reduction of tax on dried broomstick from Rs2/kg to Re1/kg and to declare that broomstick is not forest product but produce of farmers’ cultivation.

Through a press release the association stated that the appointment of mahalders is diversion from normal procedure of collection of tax on broomstick and is a ploy of GHADC to snatch little annual earnings of farmers.

“The selfish mahalders are synonymous with dacoits who used force and gundas to suppress and oppress the poor and marginal farmers. Further the imposition of heavy tax on broomstick (Rs 2000 per tonne) of broomstick is like snatching the plate of rice from hand to mouth farmers,” said vice president Grapington M Sangma.

“The market rate of dried broomstick is just Rs.30000 per tonne while the expenditure is Rs 14,000 in wages, exclusive of transport and packing charges. Besides these expenditures, imposition of tax Rs 2000 is a heavy burden on farmers. Only the bones are left for the farmers, the flesh and fats are eaten by GHADC,” opined Sangma.

Comparing the state of government employees who only have to pay Rs 3000 per annum to the farmers who had to cough up Rs 4000 for just Rs 60000 worth of produce, the association called it a great imbalance and injustice to rural poor and destitute section of society.

Further on the matter of issue of money receipt instead of a TP or road challan, the farmers complained the receipt was useless in Assam and they were occasionally harassed by Assam police on the same matter.

“We have been paying tax to GHADC on our produces like areca-nut, ginger, broomstick, banana and other produces but farmers so far have not received any assistance from GHADC. Therefore they should be ashamed to levy such heavy tax on marginal farmers,” they added.

Another contentious issue hit upon by the farmers was the logic behind selling the ‘Jharu’ mahal for a mere Rs 3.41 lakhs for the entire NGH when the GHADC forest department was able to submit Rs 670000 for 2017-2018 from the Kharkutta range alone. This largess comes even at a time when the GHADC is faced with a huge financial crisis.

“Earlier we have submitted our petition to the Chief Executive Member, GHADC, EM Forest Dept. GHADC and other MDCs but in vain as all are deaf. We appeal this time to the CM, Conrad K. Sangma and James K. Sangma (District Council Affairs Minister) government of Meghalaya to look into the injustice meted to farming community and solve the problem in the best interest of public,” the release added.

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