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Illegal cattle trade to Bangladesh: Local breeds endangered

Illegal cattle trade to Bangladesh: Local breeds facing extinction in Assam

by Farhana Ahmed
November 14, 2013

A huge illegal international trade has been on from Assam side of the border with Bangladesh in which thousands of cattle, mostly cows are smuggled to the neighbouring country which is now threatening the extinction of the local breeds in this region along with a loss of millions of rupees worth of revenue. The cross-border illegal cattle trade is made possible for the porous border between India and Bangladesh and poor border management by the security forces and other law enforcing agencies. According to the Assam state home department 1, 01,381 cattle were rescued in 2010 while the number rose up to 1, 35,291 in the year 2011. In 2012 the number of rescued cattle was 1, 20,724 and in the first two months of the current year 22, 627 cattle were rescued from the clutches of the smugglers while trying to sneak them to Bangladesh. However these are only the very few numbers of the actual cattle supplied illegally towards the other side of the international border from Assam. Cows and buffaloes brought from other states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh are also sent to Bangladesh illegally via Assam thanks to the riverine border between the two countries here.

It is estimated that an annual trade of 500 million dollars is made from this illegal international trade in which a cow priced Rs. 7000/- in India fetches a whopping Rs. 25,000/- in Bangladesh. Industries like food processing of beef and tannery are reportedly flourishing in Bangladesh because of this unchecked illegal trade from the Indian side.

There are hundreds of corridors across the Indo-Bangla border in Assam to sneak out the cattle to the neighbouring country and two hundred transit places in the border villages. A section of the Assam Police and the BSF are allegedly being involved in this cross-border trade of cattle and two local MLAs of the ruling party of Assam are also allegedly been running syndicates of this trade. Areas under Fakirganj, South Salmara, Sukh Char police stations in Dhubri district of Assam are the hot spots of this illegal cattle trade. Cows of local breed, known for its superior milk quality are transported in large numbers in machine boats down the Brahmaputra from weekly cattle markets of Dhubri, Goalpara, Barpeta and Bongaigaon districts of Assam. The cattle, purchased from different markets were transported on mechanized boats and carried to Tumani, Saikhowa, Simolakandi, Boraikandi, Mani Char, Patakata, Mohurir Char, Hazir Haat, Mandapara, Berabhanga, Malir Alga, Bangrir Char, Kokradanga under South Salmara and Sukh Char police stations for transit before being pushed inside the Bangladeshi border. Most of the cattle are send through Gaibandha-Fakirganj-Phoolbari-Nagarbandh from Tikrikilla on a 6-7 km track near the South Salmara police station. The cattle are also taken openly through the Tumani-Hazari Haat PWD road and gathered on the Indo-Bangla border for transportation to Bangladesh. The riverine area covering stretch of about 30kms Sishumara (Kalair Alga) to Mosollabari on the Indo-Bangla border in Assam is the main exit point of this illegal cattle trade.

The most unique and important aspect of this illegal cattle trade is the role of the traffickers who ventures out in daring acts while taking the cattle on the Brahmaputra, swimming towards Bangladesh. Locally known as Kamlas, these expert facilitators take the cattle in groups and make them to be swept away down the river Brahmaputra towards Bangladesh covering a distance from 2kms to 10kms by charging Rs 1,500/- to Rs 3,000/- per couple of cattle. In that act, the Kamlas too, get swept away by holding the tail of the cattle.

This way illegal cross-border trade of cattle from Assam to Bangladesh is causing not only heavy revenue losses for India but and pauses an immense threat to the local breed of cows in Assam foretelling an environmental disaster to this area.


Farhana Ahmed is a journalist based in Assam.

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