NEW DELHI: Incidents of cattle smuggling and related violence along the India-Bangladesh border have suddenly seen a sharp increase compared to the last few years, official statistics accessed by this newspaper reveal. With Bakri-Eid 20 days away and the price of meat soaring in Bangladesh due to shortage, sources in the security establishment say cattle smugglers may become more desperate in the coming days.
Last year, then BSF director-general KK Sharma had said that the numbers of cattle smuggling had continually dropped since the Modi government came to power in 2014. Sharma had informed that the Border Security Force (BSF) had seized 1.11 lakh cattle heads across the 4,156-km border in 2017, down from 1.74 in 2016. By January 2018, the trade had shrunk from Rs 9,000 crore to just Rs 1,600 crore, the BSF had estimated. The International Border remained largely peaceful last year. But sources say a sudden spike in cattle smuggling in the recent months has resulted in a rise in clashes between the guards and the smugglers.
The current month has seen an unusual spike in attempts to smuggle cattle. Sources say about 1,400 cows and buffaloes have been seized in just about a week, and the seizure is only one-third of the actual numbers being smuggled. BSF Deputy Inspector General S S Guleria, who is posted in West Bengal where the maximum smuggling cases have taken place, said, “The BSF is determined to stop trans-border crimes and has been doing its job very effectively. In the present circumstances, it has shown the best results to curb cattle smuggling.” As per data from the Ministry of Home Affairs, one BSF soldier has been killed by the cattle smugglers and a total 45 have been attacked till June 30 this year. The killings along the border by BSF has almost quadrupled, statistics show.
While four smugglers were killed last year, 15 criminals have already been killed till June 30 this year. A senior MHA official attributed the rise in casualties to the tough stance of by new Home Minister, Amit Shah. Another official explained that smugglers are showing up in big numbers with arms, so the BSF is left with no option but to open fire, “The BSF has effectively brought down trans-border crimes in the last few years. Cattle smuggling is witnessing a spike because there is a huge shortage of meat, especially beef, in Bangladesh. Cattle smugglers are desperate to go there because they know they will get great prices in Bangladesh,” said a MHA official.
A security official also pointed out a correlation between the rise in border crimes this year and the Lok Sabha elections. The official said 42 per cent BSF troops were withdrawn from borders earlier this year for election duties. The official added that cattle smugglers from India are treated as traders and not as criminals once they cross over to Bangladesh. “All they need to do is to furnish 500 taka per animal to the officials and then they are free to sell it,” the official said. One Indian rupee is equal to 1.23 Bangladeshi taka. He added that the cost per cattle has gone up to 1.5 lakh takas (`1.22 lakh), takas in view of Bakri-Eid.