Farmers and traders from West Bengal and neighbouring states flock to the field every Saturday to buy or sell cattle. Rahaman’s family earns a commission of Rs 20-100 from each buyer. Around Rs 20,000 comes in a week these days, he says, adding that profits have been 40-50% lower since 2016. “Even though the cattle trade rules in Bengal are liberal, the mood across north India has severely hit the movement of cattle in this region,” he says, referring to the violent action of vigilante cow protection groups that have struck terror in the hearts of cattle traders.
Rural families usually rear cows for years but sell them off when a family exigency demands additional funds. In some cases, old animals that cannot work in the fields are also brought here, explains Rahaman. People buy cows for different reasons, including to plough fields, for milk or for slaughterhouses.
A senior official at the Birbhum Zilla Regulated Market Committee in Bolpur, in charge of 11 such markets in the district, says the administration has been alert and no violence related to cattle movement has been reported. Nevertheless, the weekly cattle markets have not been doing brisk business since 2017, when the Yogi Adityanath government took charge in UP, he says. “These haats are local weekly markets where people have an opportunity to buy and sell animals for various purposes. While beef is not sold in any markets here, its consumption is not illegal and Muslim families procure animals for domestic consumption.”
At the Illambazar haat, three men huddle together in a makeshift shelter to keep the cold away. They are cattle traders from Bihar who arrived the previous evening with 15 heads of livestock. “We have been cattle traders for many decades,” says one. “There are many farmers in neighbouring states who want to sell their cattle because they need money.” But the risk of being attacked by cow vigilantes stops them from saying more. The three refuse to give their names and request that their photos not be taken. “We come to the market at least twice a month to sell cattle,” says one. Revealing their identities could turn out to be fatal for them.
Farmers are hit when they cannot sell their cattle freely. “Distress sales are common now,” says Rahaman. The previous month, he says, he helped a farmer from UP sell his cow for a fair deal. The farmer was desperate for cash to conduct his daughter’s wedding.
Rahaman, whose cattle market is registered with the Birbhum Zilla Regulated Market Committee as the largest in Bengal, refuses to comment on the issue of cattle from Bengal’s markets being smuggled into Bangladesh. “Only legal trading takes place in our market.”
A local trader at the Illambazar market says sometimes 10,000 heads of cattle are illegally transported across the border at one time. Traders do it by bribing security personnel. “Cattle is moved from Bengal, UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and Punjab to the border in Murshidabad. These deals can be dangerous. Traders may have to pay a lot to smuggle cattle across and then make do with prices lower than the market price. There have been instances when Rs 10 lakh was paid to move 20 cows from Bihar across the Bangla border,” he says.
In Kolkata, the buying and selling of beef is regulated by the municipal corporation. The trade happens at a century-old slaughterhouse in Tangra. Business has been slow here, too. Mohammed Ali, president of the Calcutta Beef Dealers Association, says stocks from Punjab and Uttar Pradesh are not reaching Bengal. “The slaughterhouse is doing poorer business than a year ago. Even the leather industry in the state is in the doldrums and the prices of milk and its products have increased,” he says.
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2 Comments on this Story
Jagriti Mishra732 days ago
oh Ishani! This is such a heartbreaking and crestfallen editorial. May be you could have done a bit more than journalism and helped Rahaman and similarly placed others - by suggesting them to get engaged in pork business. after all its meat trade and a cow or pig won''t matter. isn''t it? you failed both on journalism and empathy.
Dron Khanna732 days ago
Is the paid author dreaming or on cocaine?There doesn''t seem to be any vigilante violence in North India. Stray violence over cattle, land or irrigation water was always there in farming communities. Is this corrupt media''s another attempt to pull down an honest and well meaning Govt?