More than 600 cattle smuggled to Bangladesh daily through Assam
GUWAHATI: Sonapur has emerged as a transit point for cattle smuggling in Assam. Cattle smuggling has been rampant in the state of Assam over the past few years.
Members of the All India Livestock Traders and Transporter Association (AILTTA) have alleged the existence of a cattle smuggling syndicate in Assam and Guwahati. They said that in Assam, cattle are brought in trucks from Srirampur in the state to 9 Mile which is a hub of cattle trade in Kamrup (Metro).
They alleged that members of the syndicate transport livestock illegally to Bangladesh through Assam and West Bengal borders.
AILTTA members informed that a majority of the cattle which is smuggled illegally to Bangladesh comes from outside the state. They are brought mainly from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Bihar and every day between 600 and 1,000 cattle are smuggled to Bangladesh from Assam.
The demand for cow meat is high in Bangladesh and Indian cows are considered good quality beef and are sold at prices as high as Rs 50,000 per head making it a lucrative illegal business for smugglers, as per sources.
Apart from Assam’s Sonapur, another transit point for this illegal trade is Panjipara in Bengal, informed sources.
Violation of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960
Further, violating the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, those involved in smuggling overload the vehicles in which animals are transported, causing injury and even death of some cows in the process.
“The permissible limit per truck is 16 cows in total and as per the guidelines, traders cannot carry more than 200 kilograms per truck. But the smugglers load double the number of cattle into the truck and transport them in an inhuman manner, causing overloading and injury to the cows,” informed Munna Saikia, general secretary of the AILTTA.
Saikia added that Dhubri is another route followed by the smugglers through which they smuggle livestock into Bangladesh.
“There are many points along the Assam-Bangladesh border where the fencing along the border is still incomplete and they take advantage of this loophole,” he said adding that a lot of smuggling also takes place via the Brahmaputra River in which the cows are let loose to swim their way to Bangladesh.
Livestock transporters from Guwahati have also alleged that police, especially those at the lower rung, are hand-in-glove with smugglers in the illegal cow trade. They also added that the nexus has the backing of government officials too, either through monetary investment or through power.
“We have approached the police many times for the past five years and have asked them to take strict action against smugglers, but no action is taken,” Saikia told G Plus.
He added that last year, a five-member Cattle Smuggling Wing was also constituted under the police to check such activities and an enquiry was also initiated under the orders of the home and political department.
“Names of around nine people had come up during the enquiry, but no action was taken against them and no charge sheet was filed against them,” mentioned Saikia.
No place to keep cattle after recovery: Police
Talking to G Plus, a senior police official said on the condition of anonymity that one of the major issues which the police face is the lack of cow sheds or shelters constructed by the government to keep the cows after their recovery from smugglers.
“Whenever the officers-in-charge of different police stations have seized the trucks of illegal cattle, our biggest concern is that we have no place to keep them. This becomes the biggest challenge for us,” he said.
He further added that social welfare department has been directed by the Centre to make these shelters in every district.
“After catching the cows, we have to take care of 30-40 cows at a time and the OC becomes responsible even if one cow gets lost. We have to find a place to keep them and feed them from our own pockets. This is why the police usually do not want to take on the headache,” said the official adding that there should be at least one big cow shelter for every two districts, with a capacity of at least 1,000 cows.
Another police officer said that since they don’t want to arrest the smugglers and take responsibility of the seized cows, personnel posted in the lower ranks see this as an opportunity to take bribes from the smugglers.
On the other hand, the commissioner of police, Deepak Kumar, told G Plus that they have tightened security and vigil at all vulnerable locations.
“We are on continuous lookout for people involved in the racket. Kokrajhar and Sagalia are the two main entry points for cattle in Assam. We will increase vigil and take strict action against people smuggling cattle from these key points,” said Kumar.
He further added that South Salmara is also a hotspot for illegally transporting cattle and the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel need to be more alert and stringent in their checking along the border areas.
Additionally, the police caught hold of 16 cow smugglers from across the state on Wednesday, June 12. Out of these, four were arrested in Khetri area in Guwahati while others were arrested from Kokrajhar and Dhubri.
The arrested persons in Guwahati included Mohammad Saddam Hussain, Mirjanur Rahman, Suraj Ali and Alimuddin. They were arrested under section 378 of the IPC.
As per the police, all four arrested persons are residents of Kaoimari in Nagaon district.