Explained: CBI’s probe into cross-border cow smuggling trade and its widening net in Bengal

Individuals with political links are also under CBI’s scanner as it has widened the probe. In a significant development, the central agency issued a look out notice last week against Trinamool Youth Congress leader Vinay Kumar Mishra.

The Central Bureau of Investigation’s probe into cow smuggling along the India-Bangladesh border has revealed a well oiled nexus between smugglers and a section of officers from the BSF and the Customs Department. Individuals with political links are also under CBI’s scanner as it has widened the probe. In a significant development, the central agency issued a look out notice last week against Trinamool Youth Congress leader Vinay Kumar Mishra. The agency had earlier carried out raids at his properties in connection with the case.

How rampant is cow smuggling in West Bengal?

Tens of thousands of cattle are estimated to be smuggled into Bangladesh annually through the porous 2,216-km India-Bangladesh border in West Bengal. As per sources in CBI, the agency is trying to expose the nexus between a section of officials (BSF, Customs etc) and the syndicates that worked behind it.

Who all have been named in FIR filed by CBI so far?

In an FIR filed on September 21 last year, the CBI has named four persons – BSF Commandant Satish Kumar, Md Enamul Haque, Anarul Sheikh and Md. Gulam Mustafa. The CBI has mentioned in the FIR that between December 19, 2015 to April 22, 2017, Satish Kumar was posted as Commandant of BSF, 36 Battalion in Malda district which was having four companies deployed in Murshidabad and two companies in Malda. It is alleged that during this period, more than 20,000 cows were seized by the Border Security Force before being transported across the border. According to the FIR, the seizure lists were prepared arbitrarily, categorizing the breed and size of the animals with an intention to reduce the upset price of the cattle during auctions. This was done in connivance with officials of the BSF and Customs and traders like Md. Enamul Haque, Anarul Sk and Md. Gulam Mustafa. These cattle were auctioned immediately (within 24 hours of seizure).

The accused have been charged with cognizable offences u/s 120B (criminal conspiracy) IPC and Section 7, 11 & 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

What was the modus operandi of this illegal trade?

Each cow is priced in the range of Rs 80,000 to 90,000 (breeds from UP and Haryana) and Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 (smaller size breeds from Bengal) depending on size and demand in Bangladesh. The prices shoot up during Eid and when there is a high demand for export from Bangladesh for packaged meat. It is more than double the procurement price in India.

The size of the seized cattle were reduced in the seizure memo of the BSF. The auction value of these cattle were reduced which were then procured at a considerably lower price by these traders.

The central agency alleged that only selected traders were allowed to buy the seized cattle at a low price in auctions. After auctions, the cattle were smuggled into Bangladesh.

It is alleged that, in lieu of such favour, Md. Enamul Haque used to pay Rs. 2,000 per cattle to BSF officials and Rs. 500 to Customs officials. Besides, the CBI claims that the officials of Indian Customs used to take bribes of 10% of the auction price from successful bidders like Enamul Haque, Md. Gotam Mustafa, Anarul Sk.. It was also alleged that although BSF had not raised any grazing charges on the Customs Department for feeding the seized cattle but Rs. 50/- per cattle was to be paid by the successful bidders to the officials of the BSF.

Why is the timing of the probe significant?

Many have questioned the pro-activeness of the central investigating agency in pursuing the case ahead of the assembly election due in less than six months. The focus of the central agency has shifted from Sarada and Narada cases to cow smuggling and coal mining. After the recent raids, the BJP has upped its ante against the ruling Trinamool Congress, accusing it of involvement in illegal cattle and coal trades. The TMC has, however, accused the BJP of playing old tricks of maligning its image.

Who all are on CBI’s radar?

So far, two individuals have been arrested in the case – BSF official Satish Kumar and alleged kingpin of the racket Md. Enamul Haque. According to sources, there is a possibility of the CBI reaching out to bigger names. At least six Bengal police officials have already been summoned, two have been questioned and a few more business men with links to influential people are under the agency’s scanner.

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