Shillong: For the next two weeks, beef will go missing from plates in the eastern part of Meghalaya as butchers and cattle traders have called for a two-week long shutdown to protest the cattle smuggling into Bangladesh.
Border Security Force (BSF) figures revealed that in 2015 alone, at least 2,079 cows worth nearly Rs.3 crore were seized. Also, 18 cow smugglers were arrested along the India-Bangladesh border in the state by the frontier guards.
All the beef shops barring mutton, pork, chicken and fish stalls across the six districts in the eastern part of Meghalaya remained closed since Monday afternoon.
The strike, which will end on February 3, has been called by Khasi Jaintia Butchers Welfare Association (KJBWA) after the Meghalaya government failed to prevent smuggling of cattle into Bangladesh.
"All beef shops will continue to remain closed and there will be no purchase of cows from the cattle market at Khanapara village along the Meghalaya-Assam border till February 3," KJBWA vice president Generous Warlarpih told IANS.
Cow smuggling to Bangladesh has been going on for decades along the border in Meghalaya with illegal cattle traders from Bangladesh and those from Assam and Meghalaya drawing huge profits.
Meghalaya shares a 443-km border with Bangladesh, part of which is porous, hilly and unfenced and prone to frequent infiltration.
The BSF seizes cows and cattle and arrests smugglers from the international border with Bangladesh alomst daily. Meghalaya Police had seized 126 head of cow recently, thus proving that the informal trade in cattle is a flourishing business.
"Our men have been tackling this new menace and almost everyday cows are being smuggled out to Bangladesh through unfenced border and riverine routes," Border Security Force spokesman Sushil Kumar Singh told IANS.
He said the BSF and Border Guard of Bangladesh have also adopted new steps to curb cow smuggling after union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had urged the Indian frontier guards to stop this menace.
"The price of cows at Khanapara is skyrocketing due to high demand of cows in Bangladesh. The smuggling rate ranges from Rs.65,000 to Rs.70,000 for a pair of cattle, while healthy cattle would cost Rs.1 lakh," Warlarpih said.
The butcher's association said that even a person who herds the cows across to Bangladesh charges Rs.600 per cow, while a truck driver ferrying the cows from Khanapara market near the international border charges a transport fee ranging from Rs.8,000 to Rs.10,000 per head of cattle.
"We are losing a profit of Rs.40,000 to Rs.50,000 a week. Due to such smuggling, some of the members of our association have now stopped selling beef, and have started selling pork," Warlarpih said.
Indian Custom officials valued the smuggling of cows from India to Bangladesh at approximately over Rs.1,000 crore annually.