Cattle smuggling on India-Bangladesh border in Bengal sets off alarm bells
Hundreds of cattle were illegally sent from India to Bangladesh within a couple of days this week, according to officials of the Border Security Force (BSF) on Thursday, who said the smugglers were tying the animals to a rudimentary raft and using a flooded river that runs between the two countries to send them across the border — a method not seen before.
Tens of thousands of cattle are estimated to be smuggled to Bangladesh annually through the porous 2,216-km India-Bangladesh border in West Bengal. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, 261 cattle being smuggled through the Padma river were seized -- compared to the single-digit numbers seen every day on an average.
“The river is so wide that it is not easy for anyone to chase and seize cattle using boats. Moreover, smugglers prefer to send cattle after sunset to avoid detection,” said an officer of the BSF, asking not to be named.
The official added that smugglers are using floods in the river to devise a new method -- the heads of the bovines are placed between two banana tree trunks and bound together before they are pushed in the water from where the currents take them to the other side.
BSF’s South Bengal Frontier spokesman, SS Guleria said the problem is worse at places where the river widens. “At some points, where the river is not very wide, we are using nylon nets to prevent cattle smuggling,” he said, accusing some state police officials of helping the suspects.
“We have sought the help of [West Bengal] director general of police to seize cattle laden trucks before they reach border areas,” he added.
A second BSF officer, who asked not to be named, said the smugglers drop cattle mainly at places where the river is over 700-800 metres wide. “The water currents take some cattle to Bangladesh before they could be captured,” this official added.
Three Bangladeshi nationals, Jahirul Islam, 25, Md Rocky, 19, and Md Dalim Riza, 26, were arrested for the smuggling that was detected on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Residents said the demand for cattle in Bangladesh has been going up ahead of Eid festivities in the second week of August.
“Every year before Bakr-Eid the demand for cattle rises in Bangladesh,” said Ataur Ali, a resident of Raghunathganj in Murshidabad district.
According to BSF data, 38,950 cattle were seized from the South Bengal border covering North 24 Parganas, Nadia, Murshidabad and Malda districts in 2018. This year, 16,350 cattle have been seized and 50 Bangladeshi and 70 Indian smugglers arrested so far.
“We are alert about any efforts of smuggling across the border and would thwart it,” said Prasenjit Banerjee, sub-divisional police officer of Jangipur, where the recent seizures have been made.