GUWAHATI, Aug 30 - Despite the issue making headlines for some time, cattle smuggling to Bangladesh still remains a major cause of worry and according to records available, more than 1.22 lakh cattle heads were seized by the personnel of the Border Security Force (BSF) in the areas under its Guwahati Frontier in the last two and half years. The number of cattle actually smuggled out can turn out to be much more as only some of the cattle sought to be smuggled out of the country can be seized because of the terrain.
As per records available, as many as 39,470 cattle heads were seized by the BSF under Guwahati Frontier in 2015, 58,468 were seized in 2016 and 24,965 were seized up to August 24 this year. Among the three sectors under the Guwahati Frontier, Dhubri sector is still the most vulnerable because of the riverine international border as more than 40 thousand cattle heads were seized in that sector last year, while, so far this year, 12,362 were seized so far this year. Though the smugglers try to smuggle out cattle heads through other areas in Coochbehar and Falakata sectors, the Dhubri sector is still the most vulnerable and it is noticed that in recent times, the Coochbehar sector is also becoming vulnerable.
Meanwhile, BSF sources told The Assam Tribune that the smugglers always try to use different tactics to smuggle out cattle heads and syndicates are working in the area. Sources pointed out that all the stakeholders must play a role to deal with the menace as it is difficult for the border guarding force alone to deal with the problem. �The cattle are brought mostly from North India and the smugglers manage to cross several inter- state check gates to reach the international border. If the vehicles carrying cattle can be stopped on the way, it will be difficult for the smugglers to bring cattle right up to the international border to be smuggled out,� sources pointed out.
Sources revealed that the issue was discussed at various levels but the punishment under the laws governing transportation of cattle is not very harsh and the smugglers take advantage of it. The persons transporting cattle can be booked under the Cruelty to Animals Act and the Transportation of Animals Act and the fines under both the Acts are very minimal and the persons involved in such syndicates are hardly affected by it.
Giving an account of the modus operandi used by the cattle smugglers, sources said that the riverine patches of the international border are the most vulnerable. The smugglers normally tie up the cattle in the makeshift rafts made with banana trees and allow the cattle to float with the river current. They release the cattle from several locations at the same time. �Whenever the BSF men use their speed boats and catch one batch and bring them ashore, it is too late to go back to catch the next batch of cattle. That is one major problem encountered by the border guarding personnel.� The second most preferred tactic used by the smugglers is that a group of 20 to 30 men engage BSF patrol parties by creating trouble in one part of the international border by pelting stones. By the time the BSF men deal with such people by using non lethal weapons, another group of miscreants take advantage of the distraction to smuggle out cattle heads. Such tactic is normally used in the unfenced areas of the land border as the smugglers know it well that the BSF men are not allowed to use lethal weapons unless it is an emergency.
Moreover, it is apprehended that most of the cattle seized by the BSF again fall into the hands of the smugglers. Whenever cattle are seized, the BSF hand them over to the Customs Department. But the Customs Department is forced to auction the cattle immediately as the Government has not made any provision to keep the cattle for long periods and the syndicates involved in such racket manage to buy back the cattle.