NEW DELHI: A sudden rise in "floating cattle" in West Bengal meant for smuggling across the Bangladesh border has alarmed the BSF which has deployed additional troops, motorboats and surveillance gadgets to curb the crime, officials said Sunday.
"Hundreds of cattle are being smuggled through the rivers which are in spate along this border. We are increasingly intercepting cattle that are being cruelly tied to banana trunks and set afloat in the stream so that they can be collected across the border in Bangladesh by smugglers," a senior BSF official said.
Over 1,200 cows and buffaloes have been seized in just over a week by the border guarding force, they said, adding that the cost per cattle head has gone upto Rs 1.4 lakh, from the earlier Rs 80,000, in anticipation of the Bakrid festivities in August.
The seizure is only one-third of what is being actually smuggled and hence the BSF has ordered the deployment of additional troops, motorboats and hand-held thermal imagers to better mount vigil and check the menace of cattle smuggling that is rearing its head again after it was curbed over the last few years, officials said.
They said the sudden spike in the smuggling of cattle is leading to an increasing number of clashes between the border guards and the smugglers but the force is still using non-lethal weapons like pump action guns to thwart smugglers and even save their own lives in case of attacks.
At least a dozen Border Security Force personnel have been injured in these skirmishes in the last few weeks with one trooper losing his hand after smugglers lobbed crude bombs at him in the middle of the night at the Angrail post in North 24 Parganas district.
The troops have been asked to maintain an "aggressive posture" and ensure that the crime of cattle smuggling is effectively checked, a senior official in the south Bengal frontier of the force said.
Additional thermal imagers, which detect human and cattle movement through body heat signatures in pitch dark environment, have been sent to BSF posts in Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia and North 24 Parganas to check the crime, he said.
The India-Bangladesh international border area in West Bengal is divided by the BSF into South Bengal and North Bengal frontiers, the former being more vulnerable due to riverine areas.
The South Bengal front is about 915 km out of the total 4,096 km Indo-Bangla IB that runs along other states like Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Meghalaya.
The modus-operandi of smuggling of cattle by dropping them in large numbers into the river in the night on a daily basis is being seen regularly from villages on the banks of Ganga like Pahaghati, Fultala, Lalpur, Dhangra, Dhulian, Chhotapur Shivpur, Bada Shivpur, Disco Mor and Daulatpur, another official in the Home Ministry said.
This is posing a big challenge to the civil administration, the police and the BSF.
In fact, the resources that can be used to check other border crimes has been diverted by the BSF to check cattle smuggling, the Home Ministry official said.
Top BSF commanders also met the West Bengal director general of police a few days back and sought the assistance of local police in checking the crime.
"The only effective solution to stop this menace is by stopping the entry of overloaded trucks carrying cattle into the border villages that fall along Bangladesh. The police in various states need to check these movements."
"Also, stringent action needs to be taken against cattle smugglers on the Indian side who are mushrooming in border areas since many years and they regularly aide Bangladeshi smugglers to commit the crime," the home ministry official said.