Tank-fill tourism booms in Nepal

Dilip Singh Rathore


Rise in fuel prices in the country is making people, well ironically, travel and cross boundaries. Those living close to the Nepal border in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar simply drive over to the neighbouring country and get their vehicles refuelled. Others, operating on the wrong side of law, are tanking up’ and carrying petrol, diesel back to India for sale at current prices, thereby making a neat profit.

On Tuesday, when the price of petrol and diesel was Rs 82.63 per litre and Rs 74.90 per litre respectively in Udham Singh Nagar and Champawat districts of Uttarakhand bordering Nepal, it was available at Rs 68.20 and Rs58.30 per litre respectively in Mahindra Nagar’s Kanchanpur district across the border.

 This is a difference of almost Rs 14 per unit. Nepal is not complaining as a considerable amount of business done by Indian fuel stations has now shifted to them, raking in Indian currency. Neither are the people living in the areas flanking the Nepal border in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar upset, as fuel is available at much cheaper rates. We have 25 taxis stationed at the international border.
One by one each taxi crosses the border, refuels and comes back. This is the only way we have to tackle rising fuel prices. We are not facing any loss in our business, said Ram Naresh Jatav, president of the Udham Singh Nagar Taxi Union. India Today TV visited several fuel stations in Udham Singh Nagar, Tanakpur, Champawat and Khatima in Uttarakhand and found them deserted.

However, at three fuel stations in Mahindra Nagar and Kanchanpur in Nepal, the sale of petrol and diesel has gone up by a whopping 9,000 litres. Approximately 3,000 litres more of fuel is being sold at our station. Put together with two other stations in this region, the sale has gone up by almost 9,000 litres.

This has happened after prices of petrol and diesel rose in India, said Kanta Kumar, sales manager of Maha Sethi Kali fuel station in Mahindra Nagar. A simple calculation reveals that India is losing business to the tune of Rs 7 lakh per day and Rs 2.5 crore monthly to these three fuel stations across the border.

Soaring fuel prices have also led to illicit trade with vehicles with a tank capacity of 1,000 litres and 500 litres are being pressed into action. The modus operandi for smuggling fuel is simple. These vehicles are dispatched across the border with just 7-8 litres of oil in the tank and they return filled to capacity, with petrol or diesel, to be sold in the open market at a higher price on the Indian side.

Bihar’s Motihari, Araria, Madhubani and Sitamarhi districts too appeared to be dealing with the rise in fuel prices similarly. On Tuesday, petrol was being sold at Rs 88.53 in Raxaul in Motihari and diesel was available at Rs 79.72 per litre. It was being sold at Rs 70.31 and Rs 62.19 per liter, respectively, a few meters across the border in Nepal’s Birganj region.

Approximately, 2,500 vehicles cross into the Indian side from Nepal each day. It can be guessed how much fuel is being smuggled into India, said Jai Karan Gupta, a custom officer posted at Birganj, Nepal.

UP’s Bahraich district flanking Nepal also appears to be untouched by the scorching fuel prices in the state as far as the customers are concerned.

At the fuel stations, however, it is a different story. Petrol pumps at Rupayeediha area in Bahraich wear a deserted look with regular customers thronging stations on the Nepal side, just 2 km away.

Hundreds of vehicles were found with Uttar Pradesh registration numbers making a beeline at the fuel station on the Nepal side. Petrol was being sold at Rs 69 per litre on the Nepal side, Rs 13 cheaper than what it was in Bahraich. Similarly, diesel was being sold at Rs 62.20 per liter, Rs 12 cheaper than what it was on the Indian side.

Meanwhile, the public sector oil companies hiked fuel prices again on Tuesday, taking the price of petrol in Delhi to Rs 82.16 per litre and that of diesel to Rs 73.87 a litre. While rates were not changed on Monday, a 10 paise per litre hike in petrol price and a 9 paise increase in diesel was effected on Tuesday, according to the oil marketing companies.

In Mumbai, the petrol price touched an all-time high of Rs 89.54 per litre, while the cost of diesel shot up to Rs 78.42. Delhi has the cheapest fuel rates among all metros because of lower state levies. Mumbai has the highest sales tax or value added tax (VAT).

While the base price of petrol and diesel is about Rs 40 per litre, the rest is made of central excise duty and VAT levied by the state governments.

A combination of a decline in the rupee against the US dollar and a rise in international crude oil prices has led to a spike in fuel prices since midAugust. The price of petrol has now risen by Rs 5.02 per litre since mid-August and that of diesel by Rs 5.15.

First published on on 19 September 2018

Published on Lokantar on 20 September 2018