IB Times
A large boat on the Jamuna river ferries hundreds of cattle, mostly smuggled from India, from Nagarbari in northern Pabna district to Aricha, a gateway to the Bangladesh capital Dhaka on 7 July, 2015.Reuters file

The Narendra Modi government's efforts to drastically bring down incidents of cattle-smuggling along the India-Bangladesh border have paid off, with just 4.5 lakh cattle illegally exported to Muslim-majority Bangladesh this year, from a high of 22 lakh in 2013.

Modi, who was the BJP's prime ministerial candidiate, had repeatedly talked of an increase in meat exports, euphemistically calling it "pink revolution", while campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections 2014 and even prior to it.

The issue of cattle-smuggling into Bangladesh, which shares a 2,200-km border with India , has been raised repeatedly by the BJP and RSS affiliates.

A report in The Hindu quoted Border Security Force (BSF) Director-General D K Pathak as saying: "Around 22 lakh heads of cattle were sold in 2013, 18 lakh in 2014, but only 4.5 lakh in 2015." He was citing figures from the cattle market (haat) in Bangladesh.

The illegal trade, estimated at about $600 million annually, is considered legal by Bangladesh.

In the first six months of 2015, BSF soldiers had seized 90,000 cattle and caught about 400 smugglers — both Indians and Bangladeshis — as reported by Reuters.

The crackdown has hit Bangladesh hard in many ways: Slaughterhouses, beef-processing units, tanneries and bone-crushing units have all been affected. It has forced the country to look to Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar to import cows, according to Bangladeshi meat exporter Syed Hasan Habib.

India has been affected as well.

Bangaon, a city that is close to the Bangladesh border, is witnessing a spurt in crime as a result of the crackdown that has rendered people there jobless, besides leading to a spike in trafficking of women.

"The people are poor here. There are no big or medium industries or the service sector to employ the youth. The only large-scale activity — cattle smuggling — has also reduced to a trickle," the Hindustan Times quoted a former smuggler as saying.