By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, March 6: Guess what is turning out to be BSF’s most potent weapon in checking cattle smuggling to Bangladesh? It’s paint.
With the porous Indo-Bangladesh border fomenting ubated smuggling of cattle from India to Bangladesh, the BSF is adopting a peculiar way to curb the mece – by outwitting the rustlers, most of whom are Indians based in the border areas.
The cattle smuggled to Bangladesh bear particular marks on their body. It is normally a number (or even a letter at times). As the smugglers hire couriers to take the cattle across the border, the numbers on the animals help the receivers on the other side to identify the consignment of a particular smuggler.
Cattle seized by the BSF are generally handed over to the Customs department which auctions them off. But before being handed over to the Customs, the BSF of late has been changing the marks inscribed on the cattle.
“Normally, the smugglers send their agents to the auction to buy back the seized cattle. The agents pick the cattle on the basis of the marks. They normally do not buy cattle belonging to other smugglers. So by changing the marks on the backs – say 6 is made 8, 1 is made 10 etc – we have succeeded in confusing the agents and they do not buy it,” a BSF officer said.
A majority of the cattle smuggled to Bangladesh is brought from North India. They enter Assam through Srirampur and Chagolia, generally in trucks. From there, they are taken to the cattle markets at Hatsingimari, Gauripur, Patakata and Goalpara etc.
“The smugglers then buy these cattle in small quantities and gradually flock them into the chars. At an opportune time and day, the couriers, who are mostly settlers of the chars, smuggle the cattle across the border and hand them over to agents on the other side,” a BSF official said.
The couriers charge Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000 depending on the work and season.
Given the vast expanse of the porous border, it is difficult to check the illegal trade.
However, some feel it could be checked if the State police were a little more pro-active.
“Cattle trade is not a crime. But police can adopt measures under various laws, including cruelty to animals etc. Till the cattle reach the border, it is no crime. Only when, the cattle cross the border, does it become a crime,” a source pointed out, adding that most of the kingpins of the rustlers’ gangs are in India, particularly in Dhubri and Goalpara.
In last two years, however, the BSF has increased its forces along the border, which has resulted in a record haul of cattle in 2015. Nearly, 39,000 cattle heads estimated at over Rs 28 crore were seized on various stretches of the Assam border last year. Around 150 Indian smugglers and 37 Bangladeshi rustlers were held by the BSF during the year.
About 2 million heads of cattle are smuggled into Bangladesh annually from India. The $600 million-a-year trade has flourished over the past four decades and is considered legal by Dhaka.
Bangladeshi traders who operate auctions to facilitate the sale of cattle to slaughter houses, beef processing units, tanneries and bone crushing factories, estimate the industry contributed 3 percent to the country’s $190 billion economy.
Following the heightened security by BSF since the NDA government came to power, cattle prices in Bangladesh have gone up by more than 40 per cent.