There have been zero cattle smuggling incidents to Bangladesh this year from one of the country's most notorious fronts in West Bengal, a first since the Modi government declared in 2014 that the crime has to stop at any cost.
The Kolkata-based south Bengal frontier of the Border Security Force (BSF) is tasked to guard 913.32 kms of the India-Bangladesh international border (IB) out of the total 4,096 kms, running across five states and it has recorded official figures to claim that no cattle was smuggled from its side till May, 2021.
Former Union home minister and current defence minister Rajnath Singh, while officiating as the chief guest of the 49th BSF raising day on December 1, 2014 in Delhi, had first told the force that it "should stop the smuggling of cows and cattle at this border at any cost."
He reiterated this stand at various other public events even as similar assertions were made by other ministers and BJP chief ministers.
The data shared with the BSF headquarters in Delhi and the Union home ministry has been accessed by PTI and it says that there has been a "significant" curb on this crime under this front, that used to have a 75 per cent share out of the total cattle smuggling prevalent along this border.
This frontier has jurisdiction over five border districts of West Bengal: North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Nadia, Murshidabad and Malda, and only 405 kms or 44.34 per cent of the boundary is fenced as a large part is riverine, has charlands and at certain places villages are right on the IB.
The data said while 710 cattle heads were seized by BSF personnel till May this year, a consistent decline was noticed with 51,443 seizures in 2017, 38,657 in 2018, 29,720 during 2019 and 5,445 cattle seized last year.
It adds that zero number of cattle reached Bangladesh from this front this year till May and a similar decline in these numbers was noticed beginning with 8.69 lakh in 2017, 5.22 lakh in 2018, 1.23 lakh in 2019 and 3,628 last year.
The data report said as no cattle was smuggled, no government auction of cattle could take place this year in Bangladeshi corridors opposite this frontier like Jessore, Kushtia and Rajshahi.
Frontier chief Inspector General (IG) Ashwini Kumar Singh said the figures are believable when asked about the authenticity of the data.
"This data is almost reliable. It is such a long front (under our jurisdiction) and may be 2-4 cattle may have gone un-noticed (to Bangladesh) but I can guarantee that none of the cross-border cattle smugglers has succeeded this year."
"We have brought cattle smuggling down to zero as compared to handling 75 pc of the total trans-border cattle smuggling to Bangladesh over the last few years," Singh said.
The data added that due to declining cattle smuggling, leather, beef and porcelain items making industry in Bangladesh has suffered "a lot of loss" and the government there has promoted local animal husbandry in order to make farmers and other cattle rearers self-reliant.
IG Singh said the "achievement" has been the effort of a three-pronged strategy adopted by the force that included motivating field personnel, checking their connivance with smugglers and drawing new operational strategies.
"I told my men that we are here to stop this crime and we need to stop it totally.
They worked hard," he said.
While the IG refused to say as to how many BSF personnel were caught and punished for being hand-in-glove with the smugglers, official sources said the numbers were "substantial."
BSF Additional Director General (east) Pankaj Kumar Singh had told reporters at Kolkata in January that three force personnel were suspended and six transferred for their alleged involvement in cattle smuggling.
BSF south Bengal deputy IG (intelligence) S S Guleria says "effective border guarding has resulted in completely stopping cattle smuggling to Bangladesh from this front that has been going on since the last four decades or so".
"We are utilising the gains achieved in cattle smuggling to check other trans-border crimes like human and narcotics trafficking," Guleria, a gallantry medal winner, said.
As per official data, the south Bengal frontier registered about 400 police FIRs against cattle smugglers or smuggling instances and conducted about 30 joint operations with other law enforcement agencies between 2018-20.
A senior home ministry officer, however, said while cattle smuggling figures all along the India-Bangladesh border have drastically gone down beginning 2019, it was "a work in progress" to ensure that numbers are brought down to a zero in other areas like the rest of Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura.
Official records show that a total of 46,809 cattle were seized all along the Bangladesh border in 2020 while the numbers updated till May this year stand at 9,434.