Cattle smugglers hire poverty-stricken school children at the bordering villages in Lalmonirhat to smuggle in cattle from India.
Talking to this correspondent at Sree Rampur border in Patgram upazila, local cattle trader Mojibul Islam said at least Tk 300 is needed to hire an adult for transporting a pair of cows from no-man's land to a nearby cattle market.
"But for the same job, we have to pay only Tk 100 to a school children of poor families," he said, adding that hiring these children is safe as they could easily dodge the BGB.
"At least 500 Indian cattle traders are active in 22 border points of the district and they employ school children for smuggling cattle," said another cattle trader Noor Muhammad.
A school teacher at Islampur border village in the upazila wishing anonymity said BGM men allow the traders to continue the smuggling in exchange for money.
Indian traders gather their cattle at unauthorised markets at no-man's land area and Bangladeshi traders use these children to bring the cattle to local market, he said.
Shariful Islam, a class IV student of a local primary school at Burimari border point in Patgram, said at least 30 children of his school were involved in transporting smuggled cattle twice a week.
"We earn Tk 100 for taking a pair of cattle from no-man's land in the border area to a local market which is around three to four kilometres away from no-man's land," he said.
He said they go to no-man's land areas in the morning and collect cattle from traders and return at noon to the local market.
Delowar Hossain, a primary schoolteacher at Islampur, said some students of classes III, IV and V remain absent in their classes twice a week.
"As such transportation of cattle by children is illegal, we are trying to raise awareness among their parents," he added.
Sajedul Islam, a guardian at Panbari border village of the upazila, said, "We know the job is risky for our children, but their earnings support the families."
Contacted, Lt Col Shafiul Alam Khan, commanding officer of Lalmonirhat 15 BGB Battalion, said yesterday he recently issued orders for BGB patrols for increased vigilance in border areas.