Smuggling of gasoline rampant in border villagesThe fuel crisis has changed the fortunes of Chikhuri Khan, 70, from Trilokpur village near the Indian border.
The fuel crisis has changed the fortunes of Chikhuri Khan, 70, from Trilokpur village near the Indian border.
He has become richer bringing gasoline across the border from India in jerry cans, and he says it is better than farming.
Khan doesn’t see very good, so he walks the 12-km distance to India with his eight-year-old son Gonu with empty 10-litre jerry cans.
When he returns, they are filled with gasoline which he sells for a good profit.
Gonu carries the empty jerry cans while his father walks with him with the help of a stick. Khan’s elder son Fariyad and daughter-in-law are also engaged in bringing fuel from India.
The trails leading south to India are filled with columns of people from local villages all engaged in bringing back gasoline to Nepal which is in short supply due to the economic embargo.
People of all ages can be seen smuggling fuel across the border from early in the morning till late in the evening. “We also followed what others in the village were doing,” said Khan. “It is better than farming.” Many people come to him to buy fuel. Huge crowds can be seen in the area where the smuggling takes place.
The profession of Raju Dhawal, a villager from Syamkath village near Sunauli, is laying marble. He has spent years laying marble in houses in Nepal and India with his workers. Now all his helpers have abandoned him. They have become involved in smuggling fuel which is more lucrative. “What can I do? All the workers are involved in petroleum trading,” he said. “I have not been able to continue my work due to a shortage of workers. As they can earn huge amounts form smuggling gasoline, they have stopped working for me.”
Fuel smugglers can earn Rs8,000 to Rs10,000 in a single day. Motorcycle, scooter and car owners queue up to buy fuel from the smugglers.
“At least fuel is available here if you can pay for it,” said a woman who was riding pillion on a motorcycle behind her husband. “We will have to return here after we run out of gasoline.” People from Bhairahawa, Butwal, Palpa, Gulmi, Chitwan, Tanahun, Gorkha, Pokhara, Baglung, Parbat and Myagdi come here in droves to buy fuel. Trucks, buses and jeeps operating in various routes arrive with big drums. Diesel costs IRs50 per litre in India and smugglers sell it for Rs160 in Nepal.
Indians from the border regions also enter Nepal with large quantities of fuel loaded on their bikes. The security personnel don’t pay any attention to the open smuggling. “We have not taken any action against the gasoline smugglers as they are helping to keep our vehicles running,” said a security officer.
People from the border areas in both the countries have benefited immensely through smuggling. “Indians have benefited more than Nepalis,” said Shanta Kumar Sharma, president of the Nepal-India Friendship Society, Rupandehi.
People who used to smuggle gasoline on bicycles have purchased motorcycles, and now they are using them to carry larger loads, according to Sharma.