Fence Hackers


When night falls, cattle in Changrabandha, East India, fly 2.5 meters high. They spend 7 seconds in the air – all the time it takes for a bunch of Indian smugglers to swing them with a makeshift bamboo crane across the border fence that separates India from Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, not far from them on the Bangladeshi side, their colleagues are about to enter India with a group of immigrants. While one is cutting a hole in the fence, the other is working to avoid that the border patrol nab them. He holds a metal cup full of water against the wire, which catches and silences the clanging sound that comes from cutting the fence.

But the night shift isn’t over yet. Before sunrise, cheap commodities and goods in short supply, such as loads of bicycles, coins, fertilizer and narcotic cough syrup arrive in Bangladesh, and goats and garments in India.

Business never stops along the 4095-kilometer-long Indo-Bangla border, where the tradition of smuggling goods and people dates back half a century. At the partition of India, which led to the birth of Bangladesh, the trade of many goods that had once traveled freely together with people from one corner to the other of Bengal became illegal. Although a 3,000-kilometer-long barbed wire fence has tried to do away with black market and illegal immigration, smuggling is one of the dominant forms of trade on both sides of the border. There are villages where, due to the lack of employment, up to 80 percent of the people make their living from it.   

At sunset, the smugglers of Changrabandha and their fellows line up again along the fence to keep goods and people flowing back and forth. By now, the number of immigrants who have secretly arrived in India from across the border is in the millions, and some think that smuggling has become the second largest industry in Bangladesh. According to one Indian Home Ministry official, “if smuggling and other forms of trafficking of contraband goods from India to Bangladesh were stopped for a week, the government in Dhaka would fall.”


Blog post courtesy of Bobe Barsi

Photos via the Bangladeshi Border Guard website