MOTIHARI/SITAMARHI/ARARIA: People in the bordering areas are getting their vehicle tanks filled with petrol and diesel in Nepal because of lower prices compared to Bihar. The high prices in the state have also led to cross-border smuggling of petroleum products from Nepal.
Mahesh Agrawal, a senior member of Chamber of Commerce at Raxaul, told this newspaper that petrol was Rs83.57 and diesel Rs73.71 per litre in town on Friday compared to Rs66 and Rs55 (Indian currency) per litre respectively in Nepal.
Sushil Bhattarai, deputy managing director of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) admitted the alarming rise in smuggling of petroleum products from Nepal to the bordering districts in Bihar. “Fuel smuggling to India has been so high that it can pose a big challenge for NOC in maintaining normal supply in Nepal,” Sushil said.
People of the bordering districts in Bihar also admit the manifold increase in smuggling of petroleum products from Nepal since prices started soaring last week. Sources said a number of unemployed persons have started smuggling fuel and earning Rs500 to Rs1,000 per day.
Ajay Patel, owner of a petrol pump at Bhelwa near Raxaul said: “Petrol pump dealers in East Champaran are facing a tough time as our sales have gone down drastically in the last one month due to fuel smuggling from Nepal. Many youths have opened temporary shops and sell petrol and diesel at cheaper rates than on pumps.”
Even petrol stations in Sitamarhi district are also badly hit as petroleum products in Nepal are cheaper by Rs15 to Rs20 (IC) per litre and locals cross the approximately 125km-long porous border from Bhitha Mor to Bairgania in the district to get their fuel tanks full. A youth said it has become more profitable than smuggling and selling liquor in dry Bihar.
The residents of Narpatganj, Forbesganj, Kursakant and Sikti blocks in Araria district are also doing the same to fill their motorcycles, tractors and other vehicles with cheaper fuels. Many of them could be seen carrying 10 to 40 litres of petrol or diesel in plastic jars on bicycles to sell at premium prices, which are still lower than that on petrol stations in the district.
Four sons of Md Awal Hussain of Ghurna under the Narpatganj police station area have come back from Punjab. Now, they smuggle fuel from Nepal and earn more than their wages in Punjab.
“The administration is not serious about checking cross-border fuel smuggling,” said Md Issa of Amouna village.
Interestingly, authorities feigned ignorance about the illegal activity. Deputy commissioner of customs at Raxaul, Santosh Kumar, said he had no information about petroleum products smuggling from Nepal through identified roads or check-posts on the border.
When contacted, East Champaran SP Umesh Kumar Sharma also said the same. Both the officials, however, said they would look into the matter.