Indian border cows get photo IDs in battle against smuggling
Shaikh Azizur Rahman in Calcutta
Indian farmers on the border with Bangladesh are being issued photo identity cards for their cattle to help combat rampant smuggling.
In West Bengal's Murshidabad district, most cows are now found grazing or ploughing with their cattle ID cards dangling from their necks or horns. The scheme was introduced earlier this year, but it is not yet compulsory.
Valid for two years, each laminated card displays a picture of the animal and its owner, as well as information including the animal's colour, height, sex and length of its horns. The owner's name and address are listed, as well as a general description of the animal, such as 'one horn missing' or 'half tail lost'.
The ID cards allow the cattle to graze or work in the border areas without the owners being suspected of smuggling. Smuggled cattle are mostly bound for slaughterhouses in Bangladesh.
Harishchandra Upadhyaya, deputy inspector general of the Indian Border Security Force in Murshidabad, said: 'If local villagers hand over the cattle to Bangladeshi traffickers, they will be caught easily. We are not allowing anyone to carry his animals close to the border if the villager is not carrying the authorised cattle ID card and depositing them with us until their return from work.
'Soon the cattle ID cards are going to be made mandatory for all cattle in border villages. Then, during our raids, if villagers cannot produce the ID cards, confiscating the cattle and booking those villagers on charges of smuggling will be easier.'
About 5,000 cattle photo IDs have been issued this year, a government source said.
Farid Hussain, a resident of Jalangi village in Murshidabad, said the new system was inconvenient.
'It was a big hassle to get my four cows photographed. I spent two whole days to get their pictures in a studio. One of my cows damaged the lighting system and I had to pay 800 rupees (HK$150) - half of my month's income - in damages. But now I have the ID cards it should put an end to the midnight raids and harassment by the border security.'