Cattle smugglers from other parts of India using Northeast route to smuggle into Bangladesh
GUWAHATI: Almost every other day, we come across incidents of BSF personnel apprehending cattle smugglers from the highly porous Indo-Bangladesh border line in Meghalaya. Despite efforts by the Border Security Force (BSF) to curb cattle smuggling, there seems to be no end to this menace.
As dusk engulfs the char areas in Dhubri district of lower Assam, 300 km from here, a herd of about 30 calves, tied together, is pushed into the river. The animals swim across to the Bangladesh border and 'couriers' from the neighbouring country waiting there sort them by the special number stamped on the animals and takes them. A hefty sum reaches the racket through hawala.
With a large cattle population, India is a significant exporter of meat. In contrast, Bangladesh is not able to meet its demand for meat and the leather industry because of its low cattle population.
BSF sources said the demand from the other side is so high that security forces have been seizing on an average 200-230 cattle daily from the border areas. "Since the beginning of 2016, at least 31,707 cattle worth over Rs 25 crore were seized from Dhubri in Assam alone. In 2015, a total of 28,704 cattle were seized from there," BSF sources informed.
The numbers clearly indicate a sharp rise in cattle smuggling. Some 2,969 cattle were seized in 2014 in Dhubri. Though the char and its bordering areas remain the hot spot of cattle smuggling, neighbouring West Bengal, Meghalaya and Tripura are also witnessing a rise in cattle smuggling.
The reason why cattle smuggling is so rampant here is because Assam shares nearly a 263-km border with Bangladesh in Cachar, Karimganj and the Dhubri districts. Of the 134 km border in Dhubri district, 44 km is riverine boundary and is unfenced, often used by criminals to smuggle cattle, drugs and other items.
In January this year, the BSF deployed a battalion of nearly 600 personnel to patrol the Brahmaputra in boats after the Centre decided to take stern steps to check cattle smuggling. Seizure of smuggled cattle increased by leaps and bounds after this exercise. "In Falakata and Cooch Behar in West Bengal, 1,734 and 10,093 cattle were seized this year respectively," BSF sources added.
The BSF also seized over 103 cattle recently from the India-Bangladesh border areas of Gujangpara, Rajai, Gasuapara and Lynghat in Meghalaya. Sources said, "After the ban on cow slaughter in several states and the recent drought in states like Maharashtra farmers have been forced to sell their cattle. They are finding their way into Bangladesh through the smuggling route in the northeast."
The BSF arrested at least 54 cattle smugglers from Dhubri this year. Some eight to 10 others were arrested from Falakata and Cooch Behar. With security forces beefing up vigilance along the border, confrontation between security forces and smugglers have also increased. On Saturday, at least four BSF jawans were injured in a scuffle with villagers in the Nutanbazar area on the India-Bangladesh border at Sonamura in West Tripura when border guards attempted to foil a smuggling bid. BSF sources said there are about 20 places along the Tripura border where cattle smuggling has been reported.
A full grown cow that costs around Rs 30,000 can bring double the sum if sold to vendors across the border. Sources said the demand of calves has shot up recently. A mid-size calf worth Rs 25,000 can be sold for Rs 40,000.
(TNT Desk with inputs from Agencies)