KOLKATA: With the new BJP government in Uttar Pradesh mooting closure of abattoirs in the state, questions have been raised over the future of the Bangladeshi cuisine which is heavily dependent on illegally smuggled and legally exported beef from India.
While the most sought-after big-sized cows and buffaloes are brought in from states such as Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat, the transport route to Bangladesh via West Bengal passes through Uttar Pradesh. With cow vigilantes expected to be emboldened after ascendance of BJP in the state, the routes of delivery through UP may become unsafe for the smugglers, thus also sending beef prices up the roof in the neighbouring Muslim-majority nation.
According to some estimates, illegal smuggling dwarfs legal export by as much as 90%. Home minister Rajnath Singh had claimed in 2015 that the BJP’s policies against cow slaughter had resulted in massive price rise of beef in Bangladesh. He had claimed that only 2.5 lakh cows were smuggled in 2015 whereas 22-25 lakh were being smuggled during the previous UPA-II government.
While his claims can’t be verified in the illegal industry that is of gigantic proportions, it is a fact that Bangladesh’s heavy dependence on Indian cows for meat also means it is likely to be affected by policies taken in India to protect the bovine that is considered holy by Hindus. Indian cows are prized possessions in Bangladesh and special ‘haats’ (weekly markets) are held with fresh consignments of Indian cows, which cost substantially more than the local breeds, a source revealed.
The cow smuggling network to the neighbouring country is multi-leveled and complex with agents present in every region through which the cows are delivered from the source to the destination. While big sized cows from the northern states are marked differently and cost significantly, the smaller ones from states such as Bihar, West Bengal and Assam have separate markings and get treated as the ‘leftovers’.
While smugglers give a run to the Border Security Force in preventing cow smuggling by devising newer techniques, the job entails risk of being shot dead if trying to flee while caught red-handed. Recent video released in the social media also showed the inhumane technique cow smugglers devised to give a slip to the BSF.
The video claimed to be shot at the Indo-Bangla international border in Coochbehar district of West Bengal shows a big-sized cow probably from one of the northern states being tied by the neck and sent over the barbed wire with the help of a pulley while people on the other side of the border receiving their ‘delivery’.
The multi-million rupees business also involves the nexus between the security forces and the smugglers with allegations being raised often that the smugglers have to pay a hefty bribe to BSF to let them pass ‘cow convoys’ through the border. Fingers have been pointed at BSF numerous times for excesses on common people in name of plugging cow-smuggling.