The number of cattle smuggled into Bangladesh from India every year is unclear
The sheer amount of money involved in the illegal cross-border cattle trade makes it impossible to prevent smuggling of cows and bulls to Bangladesh where the demand for beef is high.
A cow that costs Rs5,000 or Tk6,250 in India can fetch as much as ten times the money once it is smuggled into Bangladesh, reports Hindustan Times.
This encourages the smugglers to take risks and come up with innovative strategies to keep the flow of cattle stable.
India and Bangladesh share a porous 4,096km border. Smugglers are active particularly along the West Bengal and Assam borders where certain points are less protected than others. West Bengal shares the longest stretch of 2,217km border and Assam 262km.
Border guards occasionally manage to intercept the smugglers, but these are not enough to deter the latter.
About two decades ago, when a thin barbed wire fence stood at the border, the smugglers’ preferred strategy was to torture and irritate the cows so that the animals would break through the fence.
“The methods included driving nails on the rumps of the cows, or inserting chilli or petrol in their genitals to make them run in pain,” a police informer in western Assam’s Dhubri was quoted as saying.
He said the method would be applied on the cows making up the last row in a group of 40-50.
But cows breaking through the fence also meant that some would be killed or maimed. The smugglers’ Bangladesh partners paid for this possible loss during advance payments.
When the fence was reinforced in the early 2000s, the smugglers changed strategies.
One of them was to use snorkelers, who would use the hollow of papaya stems to breathe underwater, guide cattle across in rivers and channels flowing into Bangladesh.
Another commonly used method is the bamboo crane. Smugglers on the India side tie a cow to the end of a sturdy bamboo pole and their counterparts in Bangladesh would pull the pole and swing the animal across the border.
The latest method, the Hindustan Times says, is to tie a cow to two pieces of a banana plant and the animal floats across to Bangladesh.
Delhi has been working on fencing its border with Bangladesh and has equipped the Border Security Force (BSF) with night-vision cameras and lasers. But there have been allegations that the border guards sometimes turn a blind eye in exchange for money.
Many Bangladeshi cattle traders are often killed at the hand of the BSF when they go to India illegally to bring cattle. But these deaths do not deter those involved in the multi-billion dollar lucrative trade.
There is no exact figure on how many cattle are smuggled into the country every year but the trade is estimated to be worth around Rs5,000 crore or Tk6,250 crore annually, according to the HT report.