Drastic fall in illegal cattle trade at Bangladesh border

Cattle run: A BSF speedboat on patrol at Angrail on the Ichhamati River, which runs between India and Bangladesh

BSF vigil, Dhaka drive yield results

Kolkata, August 22

With barely 10 days to go for Id-uz-Zoha on September 2, Gopal Bose (30), should have been busy in illegal cattle trade in Angrail, on the India-Bangladesh border.

But this year is different. A sustained campaign and strict vigil by law-enforcing agencies against illegal cattle (cow) trade have brought down the cross-border traffic by 75 per cent from 20-22 lakh a year to four to five lakh a year.

In value terms, the trade has shrunk from approximately ₹9,000 crore ($1.5 billion) to ₹1,600 crore ($250 million).

Death of a trade

Bangladesh consumes 50 per cent of the annual demand for 88 lakh cattle at this time of the year. For years, India has been meeting one-fourth of this demand.

The majority of the cattle was sourced from as far as Haryana, UP, Rajasthan by Indian traders for supply across the 4,096-km land boundary with Bangladesh. The trade is legal on the other side of the border.

With an average traffic of 5,000 cattle a day, Angrail in North 24-Parganas district, approximately 100 km from Kolkata, was one of the hotspots for this illegal trade.

As a last-mile courier, Bose would drive the cattle across the Ichhamati river, which divdes the two countries at Angrail. His religious identity as a Hindu was considered an asset for the job.

The scene has changed this year as the daily traffic is down to 500. With both the Border Security Force (BSF) and the local police having stepped up the heat on cattle smugglers, Bose has quit the trade.

According to PSR Anajaneyulu, IG–South Bengal of the BSF, increased monitoring of highways has made their job easy. The BSF, on its part, has stepped up the vigil and entered into confidence-building measures with the local community.

The cattle trade and the peripheral crime web was a major concern in the border districts. Killing of smugglers, in BSF firing, drew the ire of human rights bodies on both sides of the border.

Support from Bangladesh

Interestingly, resistance against cattle trade didn’t come from India alone. The Bangladesh government actively took part in the exercise for better border management and ensuring security.

Dhaka has also used this opportunity to encourage local farming of cattle for the past three years. The Bangladeshi animal husbandry lobby is now working as a pressure group against illegal trade from India.

Published on August 22, 2017

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