With just three weeks to go for Eid-ul-Adha, the Islamic festival of sacrifice, the Border Security Force (BSF) has deployed more force on India-Bangladesh border apprehending surge in cattle smuggling — an annual affair, but which dropped by 96 per cent last year.
As the festival — which is also called ”Qurbani Eid” — will be celebrated on July 31 this year, the BSF”s intelligence wing has alerted its border units about activities of cattle traffickers, considering the rising demand from Bangladesh.
The BSF, which guards the India-Bangladesh border, said the price of animals is higher than before this time due to rains being in full force and high water level in rivers flowing along the border.
Every year, a BSF official said, incidents of animal trafficking increase before Eid-ul-Adha along the 4,096 km India-Bangladesh border, the fifth-longest in the world, and spanning Assam (262 km), Tripura (856 km), Mizoram (180 km), Meghalaya (443 km), and West Bengal (2,217 km).
The business of cattle smuggling has been flourishing in West Bengal since many years because influential people are said to be involved. But since last year, the BSF”s South Bengal Frontier has almost stopped cattle trafficking.
It has been learned from reliable sources that the process of licensing ”Cattle Haats” in the border areas of Bangladesh is going to be completed soon. These ”Cattle Haats” see trade of most of the cattle smuggled from India.
The price of cattle in Bangladesh has increased significantly during this time of the year. At present, a buffalo of large size which is available in India for Rs 50,000 is priced in Bangladesh at about Rs 1.50 lakh and a bull of large size at Rs 80,000, an official said.
“Cattle smugglers who are involved in this nefarious and illegal business have several hundred crores (rupees) and put the lives of many poor, illiterate and unemployed youths at stake by luring them for a few thousand rupees,” the officer said.
Another officer said the more strict the border, the more money is paid to these youths who are called ”Rakhals” in the local language.
For every head of cattle taken across the international border, a ”Rakhal” gets Rs 8,000-10,000. For this money, the kingpin cattle smuggler puts the life of ”Rakhal” at stake.
Many of these ”rakhals” lose their lives while doing these illegal acts by drowning during floods, getting bitten by snakes, hit by lightning, being trampled by cattle, getting killed in a gang war or in BSF firing, told BSF spokesperson Krishna Rao
Rao said the BSF have made all their preparations to meet the challenge of cattle smuggling this year in the run-up to Eid.
“Border Security Force battalions deployed in Malda and Baharampur sectors have completed their preparations and are committed to thwart the nefarious designs of smugglers,” the officer said.
In the most vulnerable Border Out Posts (BoPs) such as Neem Teeta, Harudanga, Madanghat and Sovapur in Malda and Murshidabad districts, additional troopers and resources have been deployed, he said.
“In fact, the Ganga river enters Bangladesh from India under the responsibility of these border posts. When the water is released from the Farakka Dam, this river gets flooded which is exploited by cattle smugglers,” the officer said.
Explaining the method, the official said, the traffickers put the cattle in the river upto 8 to 10 km upstream.
“Before putting them in the river, they tie the legs of the cattle, put a bandage over the eyes and finally tie two banana stems on either side of the animal to keep it afloat.”
The BSF top brass took several calibrated measures to curb the menace last year as the trade promotes an approximate Rs 10,000 crore beef export industry of Bangladesh.
During this rainy season, the BSF has increased the deployment of night cameras, tractors, and speed boats to prevent animal trafficking before Eid-ul-Adha.
”Rakhals” of India and Bangladesh, at times, try to smuggle up to 400-500 heads of cattle, and attack the border guards with sharp-edged weapons, sticks and stones and bricks. Many times, they also fire with home-made firearms and hurl explosives
So far in 2020, 16 personnel of BSF”s South Bengal Frontier have been injured in various scuffles with trans-border criminals.
Its new Inspector General, Ashwani Kumar Singh has given clear instructions that attack on BSF personnel by these smugglers would not be tolerated and that trans-border crimes will be stopped at any cost.