Traders blame Assam govt for shortage of beef in NE

An Indian cattle smuggler arrested by BSF personnel near India-Bangladesh border in South Salmara district in western Assam on Thursday. Photo credit: BSF

Assam government's recent "crackdown" on cattle smuggling without streamlining the legal cattle business has created a shortage of beef supply in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram where the Christian population is predominant, said All India Livestock Traders and Transporters Association on Thursday.

"We want the government to curb cattle smuggling through the India-Bangladesh borders. But at the same time, the Assam government should take steps to ensure that the legal transportation of cattle is not hampered. Since the government here has not deputed a veterinary and transport department official at the Assam-Bengal check gate at Srirampur for legal transportation of cattle, we are unable to bring the cattle. This has created a serious crisis of beef mainly in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram in the past two weeks," president of the association, Arun Lyngdoh said.

Lyngdoh, hailing from Meghalaya brings cattle mainly from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and transports them through Bengal and Assam to markets in the three Northeastern states.

"Meghalaya needs about 200 cattle every day to meet the local beef demand but we are unable to supply it. The beef sellers are now depending on local supply, which is unable to meet the demand," he said. “Our business has also been seriously affected by the smugglers as they have increased the price in the market, so we can’t buy good quality cattle,” he said.

General secretary of the association, Munna Saikia said legal cattle trade almost came to a halt since 2016, when Assam government launched a crackdown on cattle smugglers. "Lack of steps to streamline legal cattle business has not just deprived the beef eaters but has seriously affected livelihoods of many local young boys," he said. The BJP-led government came into power in Assam in May 2016.

The statement comes six days after the crime branch of Assam police arrested Mohammad Sharfaraz, a cattle trader in Bihar and brought him here. He was arrested on charges of running a network of cattle smuggling through India-Bangladesh borders in Assam and Meghalaya, based on the confession of another alleged smuggler, Dildar Hussain, who was arrested earlier.

A complaint lodged at Basistha police station by Salim Javed Hazarika of Guwahati alleged that Sharfaraz of Hastinapur in Guwahati and Dildar Hussain of Sonapur Balighat along with 14 others were running the network. Payments were made through hawala in Fancy Bazar, said an official statement.

The processed beef industry in Bangladesh, which exports products to the Gulf countries, depends largely on cattle smuggled through the borders in the Northeast and Bengal.

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