And if you want to travel safe, you have to let the border security in on the plan, which makes it even more pricey.
One way to counter it is to smuggle the cattle much earlier than when the demand increases significantly before Eid-ul-Azha, several cattle traders and smugglers told the Dhaka Tribune.
“That is why in recent years, we have been bringing in cattle from India months before Eid-ul-Azha to avoid the festival price hike,” said Md Titul Haque, a cattle trader from Shibganj upazila. “I brought my four cows seven months ago.”
A cattle smuggler, requesting not to be named, said a pair of cows that were brought from India at the cost of Tk20,000-25,000 a few months ago, would cost Tk35,000-40,000 if brought before Eid.
The price gets even higher when border security of the two countries get involved, he said.
“Usually when we bring cattle from India, we first contact Indian traders to ‘place an order,’ giving them the number of cattle we need. When they let us know the price, we send them the money via hundi,” the cattle smuggler explained. “Once the fund transaction is complete, the Indian traders give us serial numbers of the cattle we are supposed to collect.”
Then the Indian traders hand over the cattle to a cattle rearer living close to the border. On a day previously agreed upon, a representative from the Bangladesh side goes to the Indian side and collect the cattle by matching the serial numbers.
“If we want to use a safer route, we have to pay at least Tk12,000 to the Border Security Force officials in India for each pair of cows, and they let us through the border with the cattle,” the smuggler further said. “Once we enter Bangladesh, we have to pay Tk6,000-8,000 to the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) officials for a pair of cattle. The cattle rearer who represents us gets Tk4,000-6,000.”
Due to this entire process, the price of an Indian cow gets almost doubled by the time it reaches the local market, he added.
The Dhaka Tribune contacted Lt Col Abul Hasan, commanding officer of 9 BGB Battalion stationed in Chapainawabganj, in this regard.
He said: “We have no issues with the business. We only require the local traders to ensure that the Indian traders leave the cattle at the No Man’s Land. Because if we find anyone illegally trespassing, we will definitely arrest them.”
Asked about traders paying “toll” to border security, he said: “We do not know what happens on the Indian side, but here we try our best to perform our duty with sincerity and honesty. We will not allow any illegal activities to take place on our side.”
Registration fee Tk500, broker fee Tk100
Before taking the cattle to the local markets, the khatal receipt must be obtained.
Titul Haque explained what khatal is. “It is the registration fee that you must pay to the customs in order to legally sell the cattle you bring from India outside your district,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
The Dhaka Tribune obtained a copy of the document, which states that the registration fee is Tk500 per animal; in exchange of the fee, the customs issues a “legal receipt” to the traders to show at check posts so that the cattle does not get seized by customs officials.
“Once we get our cattle, we contact brokers who are well-connected with the local customs office,” said a cattle trader, seeking anonymity.
However, brokers bring the registration forms to the traders and charge Tk100 for each document.
“If we could deal with the customs directly, we would not have to pay the additional Tk100 per cow,” the trader said.
When contacted in this regard, Sachin Kumar, customs official based in Chapainawabganj, said: “We provide legal receipt for Tk500 for Indian cows, but we are not aware of traders paying additional fees to brokers. We will take appropriate action if we find anything or anyone files a complaint.”