The Border Security Force (BSF) has sounded an alert all along the 4,096 km long India-Bangladesh front to check cross-border human trafficking instances that may witness a spurt in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the linked lockdown, officials said on Sunday. The force has noticed some innovative methods to push the poor and vulnerable from across the border by luring them with job opportunities in cities like Kolkata, Guwahati, some other towns in north-east India and as far as Delhi and Mumbai, a senior officer of the BSF said.
At least five Bangladeshi nationals were apprehended by the BSF in less than two weeks, between June 19-29, from railway wagons that entered India via Petrapole in the North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. The wagons either contained bags of chilli or were empty, the officer said.
The age group of the five males ranged between 12-25 years and their preliminary questioning by the force personnel revealed that they were trafficked by touts from the other side with help from local trafficking syndicates on this side, the officer said.
It is understood that job loss due to the COVID-19 lockdown and less work opportunities due to the ongoing pandemic were the reasons that these gullible people got lured and trafficked across the border, they said.
While the border front under the 913 kms long south Bengal front of the BSF is prone to maximum instances of trans-border crimes, human trafficking and smuggling of cattle and narcotics, attempts to illegally push humans have been noticed at few other locations of this border since the outbreak of coronavirus, they said.
The force has, therefore, alerted all its border posts to keep an enhanced vigil against human trafficking instances that, as per multiple intelligence inputs, is expected to witness a spurt owing to the loss of job opportunities and lockdown imposed in both the countries to contain the spread of the coronavirus infection, they said.
“We are coordinating with our counterparts BGB (Border Guard Bangladesh) on these issues and it is our joint effort to ensure that the sanctity of the border is intact and crimes are check effectively,” a BSF officer said in Delhi.
He said the force has initiated joint patrolling with the BGB troops in vulnerable and crime-prone patches of this entire border and they are sharing intelligence inputs and information with their counterparts.
“The BSF and BGB have the best of relations at present. The two countries have a shared history and we are working to make the relations better,” the officer said.
The force has also asked its border units to mount additional surveillance on cattle smuggling crimes which is expected to rise in view of Eid celebrations at the end of this month.
The ongoing monsoon season and the rivers in spate help smugglers in pushing cattle from the Indian to the Bangaldeshi side using the water current, officials said.
A first-of-its-kind trick was recently seen in the Malda district of West Bengal after BSF troops recovered a live calf that was being smuggled across the riverine border by concealing it in a carcass.
Also, cattle tied on a raft made of banana trunks have been intercepted quiet a number of times after they were pushed by smugglers in border rivers to be collected on the other side by conduits.
The border force has deployed an increased number of boats and ditches are being dug in the border areas to create an obstacle for cattle, they said.
More than 200 BSF troops have been injured between January 2018 and June this year while checking these crimes and in attacks by smugglers at the border, latest data has said.