A calf sells for ₹ 40,000 dur­ing Eid-ul-Zuha while adult cat­tle sell for be­tween ₹ 80,000 and ₹ 1.15 lakh in Bangladesh. In In­dia, a calf sells for up to ₹ 3,000 while fully-grown cat­tle sell for ₹ 40,000

The Economic Times - - Economy: Macro, Micro & More -

In the run-up to the Eid-ulZuha, de­mand for cat­tle is high in Bangladesh. And for cat­tle smug­glers across the por­ous bor­der ar­eas in In­dia, the solemn oc­ca­sion marks a ver­i­ta­ble festival bo­nanza. The “cat­tle cor­ri­dor” stretch­ing from the 24 Par­ganas mud­flats in West Ben­gal to Tripura’s forested hills is now do­ing brisk busi­ness fer­ry­ing an­i­mals to the eastern neigh­bour ahead of Eid.

And in­no­va­tion is at the van­guard of their op­er­a­tions af­ter In­dia in­creased its vigil along the bor­der. To counter the se­cu­rity forces, cat­tle smug­glers are us­ing the pe­cu­liar­i­ties of the ter­rain to trans­port the an­i­mals to Bangladesh. With the en­tire Lower As­sam reel­ing un­der the mon­soon fury, smug­glers trans­ported calf tied to banana plants along the nu­mer­ous shal­low rivers that f low into Bangladesh from Mankachar and the Barak Val­ley. The meth­ods are dif­fer­ent along Ben­gal’s swampy mud­flats and the Megha­layan hills, but the prac­tice is as ram­pant as it is in As­sam and north­ern Ben­gal.

But why is cat­tle-run­ning a thriv­ing busi­ness along the me­an­der­ing In­dia-Bangladesh bor­der? The an­swer lies in the eco­nom­ics.


A cal f sel ls for ₹ 4 0,0 0 0 dur­ing the Eid-ul-Zuha in Bangladesh, while the price on the In­dian side is around ₹ 2,000 to ₹ 3,000. Ful­ly­grown cat­tle sell for ₹ 80,000 to ₹ 1.15 lakh dur­ing the Eid in Bangladesh, while In­dian prices of bovine are about ₹ 40,000. Cross-bor­der trade of cat­tle is es­ti­mated to be worth ₹ 5,000 crore a year.

For cat­tle-run­ners, there­fore, the re­ward seems to over­whelm­ingly out­weigh the risks. Even the lo­cal breed of cows is in high de­mand in Bangladesh, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple who are aware of the trade. Cat­tle from Bi­har, Haryana, Ra­jasthan and Ut­tar Pradesh make their way to As­sam, West Ben­gal and Megha­laya, say se­cu­rity agen­cies. From there, con­sign­ments are herded out to the ul­ti­mate des­ti­na­tion across the bor­der. Ac­cord­ing to BSF’s UK Nayal, Deputy In­spec­tor Gen­eral, the Megha­laya Fron­tier has in­formed its In­tel­li­gence branch about the sud­den in­crease in cat­tle smug­gling ahead of Eid in Bangladesh. “The price of beef is more than dou­ble in Bangladesh com­pared to In­dia. With the re­cent slump in the smug­gling and re­sul­tant de­mand­sup­ply gap, the beef price has sky­rock­eted in Bangladesh. The troops of Bor­der Se­cu­rity Force are in­creas­ingly fac­ing phys­i­cal as­saults by smug­glers,” BSF added.

Smug­glers use mul­ti­ple ve­hi­cles to reach the bor­der, and cat­tle are un­loaded sev­eral kilo­me­tres away from the guarded fenc­ing. Then, smug­glers use the for­est cover or un­guarded por­tions of rivers cross­ing over to Bangladesh. One such route in As­sam is Goal­paraJaleswar: From there, cat­tle are first taken to Dhubri and then on to Bangladesh.

Smug­glers use the ter­rain, chil­dren and for­mer mil­i­tants to make a killing. fol­lows one of their trails


In­dia and Bangladesh share a 4 ,0 9 6 -k m-long bor­der, of which 262 km falls in As­sam – in the Mankachar re­gion, and along the Barak Val­ley. In West Ben­gal, cat­tle cor­ri­dors are spread along Cooch Be­har and Jal­paig­uri in north­ern Ben­gal, Malda, Mur­shid­abad, and Na­dia in Gangetic Ben­gal, and South-24-Par­ganas, which is home to the Sun­der­bans man­grove forests, two-thirds of which lie in Bangladesh. In the hilly states of Tripura and Megha­laya, the cat­tle make their way into Bangladesh from South Tripura and West Tripura dis­tricts. Sim­i­larly, in Megha­laya, South West Garo Hills and East Khasi Hills are tran­sit points for this trade. “The il­le­gal trade of cat­tle is get­ting more or­gan­ised, and we have found cases in which for­mer mil­i­tants have been found to be en­gaged in this trade,” sources in se­cu­rity agen­cies de­ployed in the North­east told ET.


Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials say that there is a ded­i­cated sys­tem for cat­tle smug­gling. There are ‘line­men’, whose task is to keep tabs on the move­ment of BSF troop­ers. Then there are ‘trans­porters’ who en­sure the cat­tle go across the bor­der, and there are ‘ston­ers’ who rain stones on the BSF party in the event of likely in­ter­ven­tions.

In As­sam, smug­glers use the river­ine routes when bor­der out­posts are flooded – of­ten three or four times a year – be­fore the mon­soons and dur­ing the rains. Even chil­dren are em­ployed in this trade by cat­tle smug­glers.

At times, bor­der fences are cut and the an­i­mal is dumped in­side the Bangladesh ter­ri­tory through the gap. A se­nior BSF of­fi­cer told ET: “Vil­lagers in the In­dian side keep cows, so it is at times dif­fi­cult to iden­tify be­tween the cow meant for smug­gling and the cows of the vil­lagers.” Mankacha r on t he Ass a mMegha­laya-Bangladesh is a tri­junc­tion and hub of the cat­tle trade. Trans­ac­tions here are mostly through hawala. The Garobadha cat­tle mar­ket in Megha­laya is about 30km from Tura in West Garo Hills and 22km from the in­ter­na­tional bor­der with Bangladesh, which is close to Mankachar town of As­sam. Ev­ery week, about 500 cows or buf­faloes are sold in Garobada, and the num­ber in­creases to more than 3,000 be­fore Eid. Union Home min­is­ter Ra­j­nath Singh has ear­lier said that the gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to seal­ing the 223.7-km Indo-Bangladesh bor­der in As­sam.

Shankar Das, the RSS leader in As­sam,toldET:“The­gov­ern­ment­must en­sure­a­nend­tothes­mug­glin­gof­cat­tle into Bangladesh.

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