A 95% reduction in cattle smuggling across the India-Bangladesh border in five years.

 

New Delhi: The once lucrative and flourishing illegal business of cattle smuggling in West Bengal is witnessing a major slump because of the Central government’s “zero tolerance” policy towards this crime and the Border Security Force’s (BSF’s) strict vigil along the India-Bangladesh border.

According to data shared by the BSF’s South Bengal Frontier, the southern districts of West Bengal have witnessed a 95% reduction in the number of cattle being illegally smuggled across the porous and riverine India-Bangladesh border in the last five years.

From a daily count of about 20,000-25,000 cattle being smuggled across the border in 2016-17, the number is now just about 100 in some areas, and sometimes even zero, say sources in the BSF.

According to BSF data, from about 54,443 cattle being smuggled but seized by the force in 2017, the number has gone down to around 1,600 in South Bengal. Such seizures have witnessed a year-on-year drop since 2017.

While in 2018, cattle seizures by the BSF numbered 38,657, in 2019, it was 5,445, and just about 1,609 in 2021.

Sources living along the India-Bangladesh border and who are privy to the cattle smuggling business confirmed with this correspondent that there has been a significant drop in such smuggling over the last few years. Residents of some of the border villages that this correspondent spoke to said that the BSF and the local administration had become very strict against cattle smuggling.

Some also recalled that once when this business was at its peak, people who lived along the smuggling route would not be able to sleep as the smugglers’ activities would increase post 10 pm in their areas.

The BSF says that it has been working meticulously to curb this menace along the India-Bangladesh border over the last several years and has finally achieved to bring the situation under control in the last two years with efforts from local sources, the state administration and because of the strong vigil put up by the soldiers guarding the border.

“The BSF is committed towards making the South Bengal Frontier a zero smuggling zone. We have been working with the local administration and the police to work towards this goal. Over the years we have achieved a significant feat in this, of course with the help of the local police and with strategic deployment of our forces. The BSF has also formed a Quick Response Team in every border post area to respond to any information we get about smugglers in no time. Our intelligence gathering has become stronger. We have tied up with NGOs and cattle activists to pressurise relevant stakeholders to curb this menace,” a senior BSF officer from the South Bengal Frontier told The Sunday Guardian.

The BSF has also upgraded their infrastructure and has taken the help of technology to check on illegal smuggling across the International Border. The BSF has installed CCTV cameras at sensitive points along the International Border, and intruder alarms to alert the personnel on duty if some object or human is trying to cross the border.

As part of infrastructure development, the BSF says that it has put up improvised fences in unfenced areas, improvised obstacles at strategic locations, strengthened existing border fences by using pipes or bamboo strips to prevent any breach, dug ditches from time to time to prevent cattle movement and dynamic relocation of watercraft based on comparative vulnerability.

Apart from this, the BSF says that their effort brought them success also due to the support from the local police and the administration. “With the help of the local administration, Section 144 has been imposed along the border, FIRs are being filed and taken up seriously by the local police, and intelligence sharing has become better between the BSF and the local administration,” the BSF officer said.

“A concerted effort with the BGB (Border Guard Bangladesh) has also been initiated to catch the criminals from the other side of the border who wait to collect the cattle or use huge boats midriver to collect the cattle,” the BSF officer added.