Kathmandu, November 16. Some days ago, a handful of microbus operators decided to visit Bhairahawa and bring oil for resumption of microbus services, stalled for want of fuel. They went to the town close to the India border with official papers and returned with a small shipment of oil.
Why did they have to visit Bhairahawa for oil in the first place? After all, fuel
tankers are arriving in Kathmandu from the Tarai every now and then and there are a good number of fuel stations that buy petroleum products from the Nepal Oil Corporation and sell it in the market. Asked why they had to go all the way to Bhairahawa to bring petroleum products, a microbus driver said: Petrol pumps (fuel stations) are black marketing NOC-distributed oil, that’s why we went to Bhairahawa and brought oil on our own.
The driver said they brought oil with much difficulty and distributed the consignment among microbus operators on Tuesday. This oil will be enough to operate buses along the Kapan-Ratna Park route for a few days.
Smugglers and black marketers reportedly get hold of the oil and gas brought from the Tarai for the Kathmandu Valley at the expense of the public, thanks to a nexus between bosses at the NOC, the authorised distributor of petroleum products in Nepal. That’s why oil is not available at petrol pumps, while it is easily available in the black market.
NOC, in cahoots with smugglers, is reportedly making fast money through unscrupulous means citing an oil crisis and efforts to bring oil from China.
Whatever quantum of LP gas (cooking gas) enters the Kathmandu Valley ends up in five-star hotels and in the households of those, who wield power, while the commoners have no option but to return empty-handed even after queuing up at gas depots for hours.
Oil everywhere in Tarai
While along the East-West Highway in the Tarai, people are selling oil like water, according to eyewitnesses.
“In Bhantabari of Sunsari and Bhardaha of Saptari, one can buy petroleum products anywhere,” a traveller said on his return to Kathmandu from the Eastern Region. “In areas close to the Biratnagar border, I saw people calling bikers to come buy oil from them.”
In Tarai-Madhesh districts, the NOC has failed to make its presence felt. “There, the oil market is in the grips of black marketers. No different is the situation in the Capital. Here too, smugglers control oil trade.” So much so, smugglers have started assuring Kathmandu denizens that they can have empty gas cylinders refilled in Bhairahawa and delivered at their homes.
Meanwhile, government officials have failed to explain where oil consignments, gas tankers and gas bullets brought to Kathmandu have vanished.
That the Birgunj customs remains virtually shut is common knowledge. But every now and then, consignments of gas and other petroleum products are arriving in Kathmandu via customs like Kakadbhitta, Jogbani, Bhairahawa and a number of trade points along western parts of the country.
Amid this crisis, Supplies Minister Ganesh Man Pun has reportedly gone to Hong Kong with oil traders without informing the public.
According to a source, the NOC, in cahoots with smugglers, is making fast money through unscrupulous means citing a shortage of oil and preparations to bring petroleum products from China.
Black marketing is not confined to petroleum products, though. Prices of those goods, for which the country does not have to rely on import from India, have been rising alarmingly across the country, giving an impression that there’s no government in the country.
Where’s supplies minister?
Amid this crisis, Young Communist League Chair and Supplies
Minister has gone semi-underground, it appears. He has gone to Hong Kong with oil traders, it is learnt, though Supplies Ministry officials and personal aides refuse to disclose his whereabouts.
The minister’s act of vanishing without informing the people about his travel itineraries during a chaotic supply scenario points at his irresponsible attitude.
His absence in times of a grave crisis has made black marketers happy. They are making hay these days. Summing up, the supplies minister, his ministry, Department of Commerce and NOC have completely failed to solve a serious supply crisis.