The menace of cattle smuggling to Bangladesh
BSF chief UK Bansal warns
Asim Kumar Mitra
IN his last annual press conference the outgoing Chief of Border Security Force U. K. Bansal told the reporters that there was no other way out except to legalize cattle smuggling to Bangladesh. He said “the menace of cattle smuggling on the India Bangladesh border defies policing and might be best controlled by making the trade legal”. He further mentioned that the government has made efforts to bring down casualties of Bangladeshi nationals by introducing non-lethal weapons. But the move has hurt the BSF, as emboldened smugglers have started attacking force personnel. In the past three years, while casualties of Bangladeshis on the border came down by over 60%, attacks on personnel of BSF went up by over 100%.
This has been a dangerous proposition made by the top boss of BSF as high sentiment has been attached to cows by the people of India who actually worship cows as “Go Mata”.
Hardly two months have passed when Officer in Charge (O.C.) of Hingalgunj Police Station had convened a meeting to discuss a very serious matter namely “Cattle smuggling to Bangladesh”. Among many other persons the Hingalgunj M.L.A. Shri Gopal Gayen was also present there. Shri Gayen was elected from the same constituency consecutively for five terms He had specific and detailed information about this particular problem. How police, politicians and BSF jawans were both directly and clandestinely involved in these anti-national activities, he knew everything.
So when the O.C. had floated the subject for discussion Shri Gayen stood up to say that cattle-mafias of border areas of North 24 Parganas district were so much entrenched in this field that they used to dictate terms with administrative authorities. And this was the reason why thousands of cattle are smuggled to Bangladesh everyday. All roads leading to Bangladesh from this Indian border town were under the command of cattle-mafias. No civilian vehicles were allowed to move when the convoy of trucks carrying cattle to Bangladesh; the role of police and BSF jawans at that time was as if they were giving ‘guard of honour’ to a V.I.P. Apart from this cattle movement, those routes were used by the Bangladeshi infiltrators to sneak into Indian soil and the abovementioned trio i.e. police, politicians and BSF jawans were there to facilitate their entry into India.
This was an open allegation made by a sitting legislator of West Bengal Assembly against our administrative authority and the O.C. who was virtually representing this authority had kept mum as a large section of police and security forces were involved in this activities and the authority knew it. At the same time, off and on they were subjected to attacks by militant mafias and Bangladesh Rifles.
Actually worship cow as “Go Mata” Unfortunately; this has also been a fact that almost all the states of India have been involved in this trade. Sometime ago it was mentioned in a seminar that main supplier of cattle for this purpose have been states like Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and of course, West Bengal. To tackle this problem, first of all it was necessary to snap the supply line. The sorry part of the story was that this was not or could not be done. Nevertheless, there was no dearth of ‘Go Bhaktas’ in our country.
Cattle running mafias abound on the border, making smuggling bovines for meat a lucrative but violence prone illegal business. Let me quote a report from Kolkata edition of Times of India published on 1st December, 2012: Bansal seemed to endorse the view that the scale of operations and economic interests involved make policing limited option. Asked if the illegal trade should be legalized given economic realities in Bangladesh, he said: “We all have to think about it seriously. It is not a problem that can be solved by policing.” He was speaking at BSF’s annual press conference on November 30, 2012.
Several Bangladeshis die smuggling cattle for amounts as low as Rs. 500. While trying to stop them, BSF men put their lives at risk while reports of corruption have also surfaced.
The massive demand for meat feeding a Rs. 2000 crore industry in Bangladesh has made it difficult for forces to stop the smuggling. The proposal to make cattle trade legal, despite its apparent pragmatism, is sure to attract fire from groups advocating cow protection. Legalizing the trade is a hot potato that the government is unlikely to consider, but it could throw open a discussion on a taboo subject that might yield results later.
According to government figures, in 2010, as many 32 suspected intruders were shot dead by BSF on the Indo-Bangladesh border while 64 men from the force were injured due to attacks from smugglers. Due to continued high fatalities of its nationals, Bangladesh had been pushing for softer approach towards border guarding from India.