By Chandrashekar Bhat
CATTLE have not been smuggled from West Bengal in India across the border, to Bangladesh, this year – a first since India’s prime minister Narendra Modi declared in 2014 that the criminal practice had to stop.
The Kolkata-based south Bengal frontier of the Border Security Force (BSF) is tasked with guarding 913 km of the India-Bangladesh international border (IB) out of the total 4,096 km, running across five states.
It has recorded official figures to claim no cattle were smuggled from India’s side from January till May this year.
Data shared with the BSF headquarters in Delhi and the federal home ministry showed there was a “significant” curb on this crime.
Previously, this frontier accounted for 75 per cent of cattle smuggling along the border.
Five border districts of West Bengal – North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Nadia, Murshidabad and Malda – come under the frontier’s jurisdiction and only 405 km or 44.34 per cent of the boundary is fenced.
Data showed that while 710 cattle heads were seized by BSF personnel till May this year, a consistent decline was noticed with 51,443 seizures in 2017, 38,657 in 2018, 29,720 during 2019 and 5,445 in 2020.
No cattle reached Bangladesh from this front from January till May, data showed.
As no cattle were smuggled, no government auction of cattle could take place this year in Bangladeshi corridors, such as Jessore, Kushtia and Rajshahi.
Frontier chief inspector general (IG) Ashwini Kumar Singh said the figures are credible.
“I can guarantee that none of the cross-border cattle smugglers has succeeded this year. We have brought cattle smuggling down to zero,” Singh said.
Due to declining cattle smuggling, the leather, beef and porcelain industries in Bangladesh have suffered “a lot of loss”, he claimed and said the Bangladesh government has promoted local animal husbandry to make farmers and other cattle rearers self-reliant.
Singh credited the “achievement” to a three-pronged strategy that included motivating field personnel, checking their connivance with smugglers and drawing up new operational strategies.
A senior home ministry official said while cattle smuggling figures all along the India-Bangladesh border have drastically gone down since 2019, it was “a work in progress” to ensure that numbers are brought down to a zero in the rest of Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura.
Official records show that 46,809 cattle were seized all along the Bangladesh border in 2020 while the numbers updated till May this year stand at 9,434.