Beef Ban Politics: How Many Cows Are Smuggled to Bangladesh?
Cows are smuggled across Indo-Bangladesh border. (Image altered by The Quint)
Cows are smuggled across Indo-Bangladesh border. (Image altered by The Quint)

Beef Ban Politics: How Many Cows Are Smuggled to Bangladesh?

The symbol of the ‘sacred cow’ is central to the shrill politics of beef consumption, but ever wondered how many cows are smuggled from India every year for slaughter?

The answer to that question is – lakhs.

The export of cows is banned under Indian law, but sources in the Border Security Force have told The Quint that for the past few years, two million (20 lakh) cows have been smuggled to Bangladesh annually.

Under the current government’s enhanced pressure, that number has come down, but the number of cows smuggled across is still in the lakhs.

It is very difficult to stop smuggling at the border. Connivance between some BSF jawans at the border and smugglers is encouraging smuggling. The smugglers or the agents often bribe both BSF jawans and soldiers of Bangladesh Rifles for easy passage.
— Senior official, BSF to The Quint

Cattle smuggling recently assumed significance in light of the ongoing beef controversies. 

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh seems to be cashing in on the attention garnered by recent controversies surrounding beef. Addressing a rally in Rohtas, Singh slammed erstwhile governments at the Centre and states which failed to prevent cow slaughter. He also highlighted the achievements of the current BJP government in checking cattle smuggling across the border to Bangladesh.

He said, “Before we came to power, every year 13 lakh cows were smuggled into Bangladesh, now it’s come down to 2 lakh.”

Lucrative Business

For Bangladeshi traders or smugglers, it’s a lucrative business. Demand for cow meat in Bangladesh is increasing every year. BSF sources say that a cow worth Rs 3,000-5,000 in India is sold for Rs 20,000 in Bangladesh.

This year, the Border Security Force says it seized 90,000 cows and arrested 400 Indian smugglers. Not knowing what to do with these cows, they handed them over to the local police.

The Indo-Bangladesh border is 4096 km long. Out of 915 km of land area, only 356 km of the border area is fenced. The rest is porous. Till the time the remaining land is fenced, it would be difficult for us to restrict smuggling at the border. These Indian smugglers comprise both Hindus and Muslims.
— Senior official, BSF to The Quint

Calfs Are Expensive, Aged Cows are Cheap

BSF sources say that the smuggling is worth anywhere between Rs 5,000-10,000 crore. Cows are driven across from districts like Nadia, South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas, Habra and Malda to Bangladesh. ‘Pepsi’ is the code name for high-demand calfs. Whereas, aged cows are sold at a cheaper price.

Bangladeshi traders often come to India to establish contact with Indian cow smugglers. According to BSF officials, Indian smugglers are spread across the country in Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, and UP.

BSF officials say that at some parts in the border, they have dug deep ditches and filled them with water so that it becomes difficult for smugglers to move cattle. Yet in this wild chase to catch smugglers and cows, BSF jawans are often injured.

Easy for Smugglers

While the export of cows is illegal in India, the import of cows is legal in Bangladesh. So, all smugglers have to do is ensure they reach Bangladeshi soil. BSF sources claim that Bangladesh is fully aware that huge numbers of cattle are smuggled from India, but ignore it because of the massive demand for beef.

The BSF claims that it will adopt advanced means to stop cow smuggling, but is tight-lipped as to what strategy and means it will deploy.