GUWAHATI: Border Security Force (BSF) personnel have practically been turned into cowherds thanks to a central government order.
On Saturday, some 40-50 cows died in Meghalaya in the absence of resources with the BSF. Over 5,000 cows died in the custody of the border-guarding force since November 2018 when the Centre issued an order banning the auctioning of cattle.
“Altogether 289 cattle died in just a week at the border outpost in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills due to various reasons which include illness and lack of infrastructure,” BSF’s Deputy Inspector General UK Nayal told journalists.
Earlier, the BSF used to hand over cattle seized from smugglers to the Department of Customs. Subsequently, they were auctioned. The government stopped this practice to thwart “recycling”.
Explaining recycling, a senior BSF official told The New Indian Express, “For example, a cow has been purchased from Haryana for Rs 20,000 and brought to Assam for smuggling into Bangladesh. We seize it and hand it over to the Customs. At the auction, it will be bought by a smuggler, say for Rs 5,000. He will then try to smuggle it but we seize it again and give it to the Customs. It will then be bought by the same smuggler or another smuggler. So, the same cow used to get auctioned multiple times. But eventually, it used to get smuggled into Bangladesh. The price there is five to ten times higher.”
He said by asking the Customs not to dispose of the seized cattle, the government had burdened the BSF with the animals.
“As the order was new and the police could not dispose them of properly, there was a sudden stockpile of the cattle. It first happened in the South Bengal Frontier. The BSF authorities there approached an NGO, Dhyan Foundation. It took away the cattle and provided them with food and shelter. But even there also, some 2,000 cows died ever since the order was issued,” the BSF official said.
He said as the order was not implemented properly in Meghalaya and Assam, a lot of cows died. The deaths in Meghalaya alone are 3,000-3,500 during the period. Some 1,500-2,000 seized cows are still in the BSF’s custody in the state.
He said it was less of a problem for the BSF in Tripura as seizures were less and deaths were also less. He said in Assam’s Dhubri sector through which smuggling takes place, currently there were 200-250 seized cattle in the custody of the force.
“It’s a huge problem for us. We don’t get funds from the government to rear cattle. It would have been good if there was a laid down procedure. The problem cropped up from the time the government said the cattle won’t be handed over to Customs,” the BSF official said.
They die primarily due to two reasons – diseases and lack of resources. They are fed by the Dhyan Foundation, villagers and BSF personnel, he added.