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Stop cattle smuggling from West Bengal to Bangladesh across Indo-Bangla border

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The cattle smuggling from West Bengal to Bangladesh across Indo-Bangla border is taking new routes and new masks. There is a slump in the volume of trafficking thanks to vigil and active campaign by Border Security Force (BSF). The price of beaf in India Rs 150, it is more than double in Bangladesh, Rs 350. With the recent slump in the smuggling and resultant demand-supply gap, the beaf price has skyrocketed, making trafficking riskier but much lucrative.The economics of the whole operation is found to be quite lucrative enough for people to ignore the risks to life.At least 60,000 cows used to be smuggled into Bangladesh every day at various points along the 4,096.7-km long border, although there is no real way to corroborate those figures. The BSF officers, however, claimed that smuggling has dwindled to three digit figure. "Cattle smuggling instances have gone down by over 90 per cent this year in our frontier. This frontier constitutes for 80 per cent of this illegal activity comprising districts of North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Nadia, Murshidabad and Malda," BSF senior officer said.BSF innovated a low cost solutions like digging ditches and improvising fence security by welding GI pipes about 2-feet above the ground, BSF official claimed,has "shown very good results" in checking the illegal activity. The border guarding force, over the last five months, has plugged some of the most vulnerable patches of this 4,096-km border by not only increasing troop strength but also providing them with more weapons, vehicles and a fresh fleet of fast attack motorboats to patrol riverine areas."While about 20 metre wide trenches have been dug just for almost 21-kms just behind the international border, GI pipes have been welded to existing metal fence as its barbed wire had already been cut by smugglers," a BSF commanding officer said.The senior officer admits that there is corruption amongst ground forces too. "Yes some BSF men at the border are corrupt, the local police is corrupt too and whenever we catch them taking money we take stringent action and jail them," he says. "But imagine this — at the dead of night, when thousands of cattle are charging across the border, what can a couple of men armed with just pellet guns do?" So, traffickers have found new holes in the 4,096.7 km long porous border. BSF,tasked with guarding this porous, almost impossible border, finds the job frustrating. "The Bangladesh border is different from the Pakistan border," a senior officer in the BSF said on condition of anonymity." Bangladesh is a friendly neighbour while Pakistan is an enemy country. The government of India is clear that the BSF should not use force while dealing with illegal immigrants or smugglers. Moreover, all our troops at the Bangladesh border have come from the Kashmir border, where they are trained to shoot at sight. Here they are being told not to shoot anyone unless in self-defence. It is very tough to change their mindset, almost impossible, and the constabulary is frustrated," he adds.The BSF's decision not to shoot cattle smugglers on the India-Bangladesh border appears to have emboldened the criminals who are now more brazen -- and violent too. Estimated at Rs.5,000 to 10,000 crore, cattle smuggling is a flourishing business in the area. And India's Border Security Force is increasingly facing physical attacks on its men.Moreover, the cow-traffickers have also developed a well-oiled counter-intelligence network. "There are 'linemen' whose task is to keep tabs on our movement. Then there are 'transporters' who ensure the cattle go across the border, and there are 'stoners' who rain stones on us to scatter us," said a BSF trooper about the modus operandi of the smugglers.Now BSF troopers wear cricket helmets as the 'stoners' mostly target their head and face. All this has not deterred the BSF. The force annually seizes cattle heads worth Rs.4-5 crore. But the seized animals make their way back to the smugglers who buy them during their auction by the customs department.For last 2-3 years cow smuggling in North Bengal specially through Cooch Behar and Alipurduar district have been increased spontaneously and inactivity of police administration , involvement of powerful political leaders behind the curtain have added extra strength to such criminal activities. Cow theft cases in those districts have reached to pick due to the inaction of police.Mostly Bangla deshi Muslims are involved in cow theft cases and cow smuggling as reported by the affected local public.Routes it takes South Bengal

The cows are being brought from Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh,Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand to two major haats – Pandua and Mograhaat in Chinsurah subdivision and Mayapur in Arambagh subdivision. They are being loaded on trucks. The trucks move along Nadia Iswar Gupta Setu, Kalyani Barrackpore Expressway to reach Nilgunj, Jessore Road to reach borer point Bongaon.

Some cows come to Haringhata and Birohi haat. The other route is Kalyani,NH34, Chakdah, Chakdah-Bongaon Road. With stricter vigilance, they are now entering Bangladesh through Tetulia. The other border used is Angrail border. Angrail has a unique topography of being a thumb-shaped land mass surrounded from three sides by the Icchamati river which flows into both the countries.

The price is Rs 12,000 – 14,000 per quintal. Bigger cow from Haryana and Rajasthan is 2.5 to 3 quintal. One cow, sometimes, costs Rs 50,000

Apart from the slick bodies, sticks sharpened at one end are used by these men to poke the cattle and infuriate them if the BSF does indeed turn up. A dah (long thick dagger native to the area) is also carried for extra protection. In recent times, country-made pistols are also in use along with crude bombs. Ghorupaatis cross the border to hand over the cattle, stay illegally in Bangladesh until noon and then simply walk or take a train back home in broad daylight, cocking a snook at the security forces in both the countries.

North Bengal

In north Bengal the majority of cattle is now being smuggled across 172 km long border Malda shares with Bangladesh. The cows are coming from distant places like Gujarat, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Majority of these cows come to Gonda Cattle Haat in Jharkhand.

From here the consignment comes to Sahebgunj. From there the cattle is taken to Hamidpur Char via Rajmahal. From there the cattle consignment goes to Baishnabnagar to Murshidabad’s Nimtita. Alternatively, the consignment moves from Rajmahal to Dhuliyan and Pakur. At Pakur, the cows are stamped with specific number.

 From here, it takes riverine route (Malda shares 30 km riverine border with Bangladesh). The cows are bound one after another by long iron-chain.They are then taken to the Ganga by some hand-picked youths called Rakhals, very good swimmers. They then took the line of cow along the riverine route to Banglaadesh. Since cows are naturally very good swimmers, such smuggling happens at night. For facilitating the smuggling of each pair of cow, a Rakhal takes Rs 3,000.

The cattle reached the Chapai at Nababgunj in Gomostapur police station area in Bangladesh. Documents of ownership are made there before taking to different slaughter houses in Bangladesh.

The second route is entirely through land border. From Jharkhand, it goes to Shamshi Ghat and from there to Ratanpur Haat, Habibpur Haat, Agra  Harischandrapur, Kedariparaa, Kutadaha, Songhat. Since a huge stretch of Indo-Bangla border is without fence, smuggling is easy. The cattle are smuggled across to Pengabari, Naogaon, Rohanpur Slaughterhouse.

In north Bengal, in last few months, 300 smugglers were arrested and 10,000 cows were seized. But it is a tip of an iceberg. But the strangest thing is that these seized cows get auctioned. Most often the cow-smugglers buy back these cows. A smuggler won't suffer losses even if he buys the same cow five times. Indian cattle fetch five to 10 times its value in Bangladesh depending on its size, age and health," said a BSF trooper.

Since, vigil is less in north Bengal, smuggling remains easy. Even smugglers

prefer north Bengal to south Bengal.

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