Home Ministry data show that in 4 years, cattle seizure dropped to a sixth.
As an indication that cattle smuggling from India to Bangladesh has been effectively tackled, cattle seizures along the eastern border have dropped sharply over the past few years. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the Border Security Force (BSF) has seized just 20,415 cattle on the Bangladesh border so far this year, compared with 1,53,602 in 2015.
Data from the last seven years shows that cattle seizures dropped nearly 50 percent to 63,716 in 2018 from 1,19,299 in 2017. Over the last two years, the number has decreased significantly: 46,809 in 2019 and 20,415 in 2021.
The BJP-led government has put special emphasis on protecting cows and preventing cattle smuggling since it took power in May 2014.
There have been increased efforts to monitor the border and stop cattle smuggling since then. More speedboats have been acquired to pursue cattle smugglers through the rivers. Additionally, lethal and non-lethal weapons have been used to coerce such trans-border criminals. In an official statement last year, the BSF called cattle smuggling “sedition”.
According to BSF sources, there are other reasons for the sharp drop in cattle seizures. Previously, cattle we seized were turned over to customs authorities who auctioned them. The cattle auctioned would most often be bought by the same smugglers who brought them back across the border. “This led to an increase in seizures,” explained a senior BSF officer.
Such auctions were stopped in 2018. Local police were supposed to take possession of cattle seized, but they did not cooperate. As a result, some NGOs helped take care of the seized cattle, which were then given to cow shelters. “BSF had to bear expenses, but this made seizure numbers lower,” explained the officer.
Bangladesh increased its own dairy capacity over the years, and developments in the hinterland restricted the movement of cattle to the border, according to sources. The Haryana breed of cow is hardly seized at the border any more. However, cows from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar still find their way to the border. Another BSF officer said: “We won’t have to do this job if the states act.”
Smugglers have also fewer attacks on BSF personnel since the cattle seizures have declined. 103 injuries were reported to BSF personnel in 2015, but only 63 were reported in 2021. In any case, the border guards are not putting any less effort into active interception. The firing of lethal and non-lethal weapons by the BSF during this period has remained consistent.
BSF lethal weapons were fired 219 times on the Bangladesh border in 2015, and there are now 244 such incidents in 2021, according to the data. Only two years saw this number fall below 200: 2017 (139) and 2018 (77). Maximum lethal weapon firing incidents occurred 355 times in 2016.
During the same period, the BSF has continued to fire pump action or pellet guns to deter cross-border crime.