Smuggling of hilsa to India has continued, both through land and waterways, amid ban on export of the popular fish.
Different points of about 200-kilometre-long border of south-western region from Satkhira to Jibonnagar of Jhenidah and the waterways of Satkhira along the Sundarbans are used for the purpose, foiling the government initiative to increase supply of the popular fish in local markets and check the high price by banning its export.
"After the Eid-ul-Fitr, price of per kg hilsa for around one-kg sized ones dropped from earlier Tk 1 thousand to Tk 850 following its good catches in recent time. The price of the fish would have decreased further and reached the purchasing capacity of common people if its smuggling could be prevented," said Mithu, owner of Lipi Fish, a fish wholesaler at Jessore Boro Bazar.
Sources seeking anonymity said trucks loaded with huge amount of hilsa from Barisal go to Satkhira, Jessore, Jhenidah and Magura to offload the fish at the wholesale markets. Then it is transported to the bordering areas including Bhomra of Satkhira, Satai of Baganchhara and Benapole under Sharsha upazila in Jessore and Jibonnagar and Moshispur in Jhenidah and many other points of those districts. From there day labourers, mostly women, carry the fish in sacks to India, walking five to six kilometres.
The Border Security Force of India prevents illegal entrance to India from Bangladesh but they welcome the hilsa smugglers who sell the fish to the Indian parties, often fixed earlier. The smugglers get about 700 to 800 rupee (equivalent to about Tk 1200 to 1400) per kg of hilsa for the fish sized between 800 gram and 1 kg.
The river routes in Satkhira along the Sundarbans are used for hilsa smuggling to India as a number of trawlers, engaged in fishing in rivers in Barisal, Barguna, Bhola, Patuakhali and other regions and offshore areas of Bangladesh, are used for the purpose, said sources in Shyamnagar upazila of Satkhira district.
The boats go to India through waterways in the Sundarbans in Satkhira. The boats use Bangladeshi flag in Bangladesh territory and replace it with Indian flags while entering Indian waters. They sell the hilsa to trawlers and the nearest river ports in India, sources said.
"Huge amount of hilsa is being smuggled to India through the long border area while the government is being deprived of a good amount of foreign currency due to the ban on its export," said Mahbubur Rahman, fisheries officer of Sharsha, also the in-charge of Benapole Quality Control Department.
Border Guard Bangladesh seized 800 kg of hilsa from Jessore and 200 kg of the fish from Satkhira, which were being smuggled to India in August and September.
But the amount is too little, considering the extent of smuggling, sources said.