| Dhaka, Tuesday, 16 April 2024

Problems embargo on cattle ‘imports’

Update : 2015-08-31 15:23:27
Problems embargo on cattle ‘imports’

Bangladeshi cattle traders and the carriers, who used to bring cows into the country, are facing barriers created by India’s border security force (BSF) while making any attempts to do so.

The cadres of Hindu nationalist organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) are keeping surveillance in bordering areas so that no cattle could cross Indian’s border with Bangladesh.

So, the imports of cattle from India - earlier done through informal channel but with certain official understanding - have come to an almost halt, excepting a few points.

Cattle traders said the Indian cattle traders are gathering cows near bordering areas ahead of Eid-ul-Azha when the demand for cows rise several times in Bangladesh.

But, the fear of facing barriers is keeping them away from the border. The BSF personnel are ready to shoot if anyone is seen bringing cattle along the border.

Inhabitants in the bordering areas said that there are awareness-raising campaigns that cautioned the traders about restrictions on cattle imports from India.

Border guard Bangladesh (BGB) members are carrying out meetings to make the local people aware of the situation.

General secretary of Bangladesh meat traders association Robiul Alam said the number of cows that are brought to the Gabtoli cattle market in Dhaka has decreased by 25 per cent.

“It is hard to say what the condition will be during the Eid-ul-Azha. This is because the local cattle come to the market 8-10 days before Eid-ul-Azha. The price of the cattle would be determined only when the local cattle are brought to the market,” he said.

Director general of livestock department Ajay Kumar Ray, however, said the government has already undertaken some plans to overcome the situation. “There will be no shortage of cattle in the market as there are 34 lakh (3.4 million) cows and buffaloes and 79 lakh (7.9 million) goats and lambs in the country. The farmers are ready to sell them during the Eid market,” he added.

According to the national board of revenue (NBR) and BGB, 20 lakh (2 million) cattle are brought from India every year on an average. Annual turnover in this cross-border trader is around Tk 3,000 crore (Taka 30 billion).

According to official statistics, 20.32 lakh cattle came to the country in 2014. A total of 23.74 lakh cows came in 2013, which meant that almost 2 lakh cattle were brought every month.

However, the cattle import started falling from February this year.

A total of 1 lakh cattle were imported in January, where it was only 48,450 in February, and in March the figure came down to 44,945.

The officials said it was not more than 20,000 cattle brought every month from April to July.

In August it was only 2,000 cattle that were brought every day. Earlier, 8,000 to 10,000 cattle were brought every day on an average.

Assistant research director Khandakar Golam Moazzem of the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD), who is studying the cattle trading, said there is little chance of doing something extraordinary as there is little time at hand.

However, it is good if the government manages to take some initiative quietly. “Even if there is cattle crisis, the people will surely find out a solution to overcome it” he expressed his views.

According to a Times of India report on 4 February, Indian home minister Rajnath Singh directed the BSF to stop cattle trafficking while inspecting the border area on 2 February. Since then, the BSF men imposed restrictions on the trading of cattle, making it impossible to continue the informal trade.

BGB director general (DG) major general Aziz Ahmed said no one expects there will be clash over the cattle trade. “The residents along the border area have been cautioned that they should not bring cattle by crossing the border. More than 3,000 awareness meetings were held in bordering areas in the meantime,” he pointed out.

BGB officials said the number of border killing will also fall once the cattle trading stops as it is considered to be the main reason behind almost 90 per cent of the border killing.

A total of 288 people were killed along the border between 2009 and 2013. Some 20 people were killed in the first six months of this year.

Officials from the livestock department said almost 50 lakh cattle are slaughtered in Bangladesh every year. Some 25 lakh cattle are being slaughtered only during Eid-ul-Azha. Almost half of the total demand is met by cattle being brought from India.

However, India never gave a formal permission for exporting cattle keeping in mind the religious sentiments of the country’s majority Hindu people.

In such circumstances, a border corridor system was introduced more than a decade ago. Accordingly, the cattle which come from the Indian side are gathered and confiscated by the revenue officials. They are then sold out to the local cattle traders for Tk 500 each.

There are 31 such corridors along the border -- 12 along Rajshahi border, nine along Jessore border, four along Khulna border, and three each along Sylhet and Chittagong borders.

It was learned from border areas that cows and buffaloes are still coming from India but their number has come down significantly. It is also not sure if the supply will rise before Eid ul Azha.

When asked Lt Col Abdur Rahim, commanding officer of BGB-23 battalion, said 100-125 cattle are brought to Bangladesh on an average every day through Sharsha border’s Char corridor, compared to 2,500-3,000 cattle that were brought in daily in December, 2014.

As the cattle trade dropped, a section of traders are getting involved in a number of illicit activities including smuggling of contraband items including phensidyl, local sources said.

However, a cattle trading is on the rise along eight corridors of Rajshahi despite fall in the trade in every other point.

Owner of the largest cattle shed in Satkhira’s Boikari border and also vice president of Satkhira sadar upazila Awami League Asaduzzaman alias Osle member, said the cattle was not coming from India. Almost 5,000 people engaged with the cow shed and cattle trading have become jobless.

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