In border areas, people buying fuel from Nepal

Cheaper petroleum products across the border have reversed the flow of people with Indians travelling to the neighbouring country to buy fuel

Photo by Debajyoti Chakraborty/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Photo by Debajyoti Chakraborty/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Zaheeb Ajmal

When India stopped transit facilities to Nepal , first in 1989 and then in 2015, people in the bordering areas would travel to this side of the border to buy essential goods including petroleum products.

The past several weeks, however, have witnessed a reverse flow of Indians travelling to Nepal to buy petroleum products. A steady stream of Indians on motorcycles and even bicycles are apparently commuting daily with plastic cans. Four-wheelers and two-wheelers are also using the opportunity to fill up their tanks on their weekly or bi-weekly visits to the neighbouring country.

The difference in prices of petrol and diesel are now substantial in the two countries, explains a resident on the Indo-Nepal border, P Kumar ( name changed). Petrol and diesel per litre in Nepal are cheaper by ₹15 and ₹18 respectively than in India, he informs.

On Thursday, petrol in Nepal cost ₹69 per litre ( 110 Nepalese Rupees) while diesel cost ₹57.71 ( 92 Nepalese Rupees). INR 100 on Thursday was exchanged at Nepalese Rupee 160.15.

The price-differential is incentive enough for enterprising Indians on border areas to start on a flourishing trade in petroleum products. Hundreds of Indians are apparently walking across to Nepal and bringing back petrol and diesel to sell them in India at a profit but at rates which are less than the official rates.

“It is a win-win situation for both buyers and sellers,” explains Kumar.

Rising petroleum prices in India have forced him to look for alternative sources, admits Ravi Prasad in Araria ( Bihar). “ I drive an auto rickshaw and I have to save some money or else what do I feed my family,” he complains.

Ravikant, a government employee said over phone, “My expenditure on transport has increased steeply. Last year I spent between ₹300 and ₹400 but now I find my expenses on transport exceeding ₹600 a month. If I can save some money by buying fuel from Nepal, why shouldn’t I ?”

A year before

If we compare the present fuel price with prices from last year, petrol price in Nepal was INR 61.47 (Nepalese Rupees 98) in July 2017, whereas diesel was at INR 46.42 (Nepalese Rupees 74). In the same month the prices in Patna were ₹69.24 and ₹58.72 respectively.

Apart from the excise duty imposed and collected by the central government state governments also collect VAT on petrol and diesel. The VAT on petrol is 24% and 19% on diesel in Bihar.

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