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BHOPAL: To dodge cow vigilantes and cops of Madhya Pradesh, cattle smugglers have started using luxurious and tailor-made SUVs.

The fact surfaced on Saturday morning after a Tavera stuffed with six cows rammed two trucks on national highway in Chhindwara, a district that has emerged as a key transit point to slaughterhouses in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.

“The incident took place near Linga area. Driver managed to escape. We have traced addresses of those involved. Our counterparts in Maharashtra have been alerted,” said G K Pathak, SP Chhindwara.

Rear seats of the SUV were removed so that bovines could be bundled, said Pathak. Using SUV’s proves how lucrative cow smuggling is, he said.

The vehicle, registered in Maharashtra, was spotted by night patrolling squad. On seeing the policemen, the driver the SUV tried to speed up his vehicle but lost control on the steering and rammed two trucks coming from the opposite side.

“Of the six cows inside the vehicle, one died,” said the officer. A case has been registered under different sections of Madhya Pradesh Gauvansh Vadh Pratishedh Act and Section 8 of Madhya Pradesh Agriculture Cattle Preservation Act, 1959.

Over 70 cases of cattle smuggling have been registered in Chhindwarda district in the last eight months. One of the mastermind has been identified as Salim Haji of Nagpur. “We have announced an award of Rs 5,000 on furnishing any information that can lead to his arrest,” said the SP. Several raids have been conducted for his arrest in Nagpur but to no avail. In the last eight months, Chhindwarda district police have seized 70 trucks stuffed with cattle, while they were being smuggled from Madhya Pradesh to Maharashtra. More than 300 cows were rescued in the operations. In one of the cases, police have rescued cows that were stuffed inside a car. “The car had only one seat while remaining ones were removed to push the cows in,” said a police officer.

During investigations, police found that there was a well organised syndicate luring poor farmers to sell their cows at throw away prices. “Those farmers who could not afford to feed their cattle’s were selling cows for as low as Rs 500 to Rs 1,000,” said the SP.