The Comptroller and Auditor General of India has rapped the Meghalaya Forest department and six cement companies for ‘conniving’ to set up cement plants in forest areas resulting in commercial benefits of over Rs 42 crore.

The high-level committee, whose members belong both to the Centre and the state government, has opined that the plants have been set up in forested areas, but the forest department and the PCCF (Principal Chief Conservator of Forest) did not take any actions, the CAG report tabled yesterday in the Assembly said.

Of the 1502.44 ha of land held by these companies and assessed 642.87 ha of land was found to be forest land and 802.12 ha as non-forest area, the CAG said.

"The lackadaisical approach of the forest department not only allowed undue commercial benefit of Rs 42.24 crore to the cement plants towards Net Present Value of forest land not realised but also resulted in unauthorised operation of these cement plants without seeking necessary clearances in violations of the regulatory acts," the report stated.

It also stated the fact that these cement plants still continue to run their operations with impunity indicates ‘connivance’ between the forest department and the cement plants.