Binod Bhandari, The Kathmandu Post, February 22, 2018
Biratnagar-Gasoline imported from India is being sold en route before reaching Nepal as prices are higher across the border. And with Nepal-bound tankers arriving only partially filled, state-owned Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has had to hike imports to make up for the shortfall.
Tanker drivers transporting oil for NOC from the Barauni depot in India have been unloading part of their cargo before crossing the border into Nepal to make a quick buck, officials said.
According to NOC, the country’s eastern region consumes about 750 kilolitres of diesel and 250 kilolitres of petrol daily. Compared to the last fiscal year, the figures are 25 and 35 percent higher respectively.
Diesel costs Rs28 per litre more and petrol costs Rs22 per litre more in India, and this kind of profit margin is irresistible for tanker drivers, said officials.
NOC currently issues about 12 kilolitres of petroleum products each to gasoline pumps in the eastern region. Demand has not been that high even during the peak farming and construction seasons when consumption soars, they said.
Last week, a tanker reportedly driven by Krishna Yadav loaded 20,000 litres of diesel at Barauni but delivered only 4,000 litres to NOC’s branch office in Biratnagar as 16,000 litres had been sold in India.
Bhanu Bhakta Khanal, head of NOC’s Biratnagar depot, said, “Although our office was informed of this incident recently, I have begun an investigation into this criminal conduct. The office will punish those responsible after completing the probe.”
Fuel smuggling is said to have intensified at Rangeli, Karsiya and Dainiya of Morang as well as Bhantabari, Inaruwa, Sayebjung, Kaptanjung and Dewanjung in Sunsari.
Nepal-bound gasoline is frequently sold in India whenever prices go up there.
Tankers bringing petroleum products from the Barauni depot are sealed, but the seals can easily be replaced. Moreover, NOC’s weighbridge has been out of operation from last year, which has made it difficult to determine how much cargo a tanker is carrying. The equipment broke down about the same time as when fuel prices went up in India.