IN WHICH indicates that the smuggling of cattle from India to Bangladesh has been combated effectively, seizures of cattle along the eastern borders have fallen sharply in recent years. The latest data available from the Home Office (MHA) shows that seizures of cattle by the Border Security Force (BSF) at the Bangladesh border were only 20,415 until November 2021, up from 1 53,602 in 2015.
Data from the past seven years shows that 2018 was a turning point when livestock foreclosures fell almost 50% to 63,716, down from 1,19,299 in 2017. The numbers have fallen sharply in the past two years: 46,809 in 2019 and 20,415 in 2021.
Since coming to power in May 2014, the BJP-led government has placed particular emphasis on protecting cows and combating contraband cattle.
In 2015, speaking to BSF staff at a West Bengal border post, then Home Secretary Rajnath Singh said he wanted the force to crack down on contraband cattle so severely that the Bangladesh would stop eating beef.
Since then, the force has deployed additional personnel to monitor the border around the clock and stop the smuggling of cattle. He acquired more speedboats to hunt smugglers carrying cattle across rivers. He also took coercive action by firing lethal and non-lethal weapons at these cross-border criminals. Last year, in a statement, the BSF called cattle trafficking an act of “sedition”.
Sources at the BSF, however, said there were other reasons for the sharp decline in livestock seizures. “Previously, after we seized cattle, it was handed over to the customs authorities who put them up for auction. Cattle put up for auction were most often bought by the same smugglers who brought them back to the border. This has increased the number of seizures, ”explained a senior BSF officer.
In 2018, these auctions were stopped. “The local police were supposed to take possession of the seized cattle, but they did not cooperate. Thus, the BSF took care of the seized cattle with the help of certain NGOs and then handed them over to the cow shelters. BSF had to bear expenses, but this reduced the number of seizures, ”explained the officer.
Sources said other factors include Bangladesh increasing its own dairy capacity over the years and developments in the hinterland which have restricted the transport of livestock to the border. “The Haryana breed of cows is barely seized at the border now. But those from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar continue to arrive. If state governments act, BSF won’t have to do this job, ”said another BSF officer.
The decline in livestock seizures has also coincided with the decline in attacks on BSF staff by smugglers. From 103 injured BSF personnel in 2015, the figure has fallen to just 63 in 2021. This does not mean, however, less active interception efforts by the border guard force. Data shows that both lethal and non-lethal weapon fire by the BSF has remained constant over this period.
According to the data, there were 219 incidents of lethal gunfire involving the BSF at the Bangladesh border in 2015, which has now grown to 244 in 2021. In fact, that number was below 200 in just two years: 2017 (139) and 2018 (77). The year 2016 saw the maximum number of lethal weapon shooting incidents at 355.
Likewise, the fire from pump or pellet guns, which the BSF uses to deter cross-border criminals, also remained constant during the period.