Away from the eyes of the border guards and police, thousands of cycles pour across the Indo-Nepal border every day, carrying fertilizer bags, garments, spices, milk, petroleum products, LPG cylinders — you name it, they smuggle it.
In Sonauli, a border village, cycle seller Shamsher Gupta said he sells 300-400 bicycles a month. A large number of bicycle shops, which cater to both Indian and Nepalese residents, have sprung up in towns and villages along the border.
Charan Rajak, a resident of Seikh Farenda village, explained the economics: “A bag of urea costs Rs 251 in Uttar Pradesh and we get Rs 450 for it in Nepal. We make Rs 300-500 a day, if we take three bags of fertilizer across the border.”
A parallel industry is also thriving in these parts. Villagers want sturdy bicycles and in villages of Siddharthanagar district, local blacksmiths are modifying bicycles.
“The cycle frame is strengthened with a second pair of rod and a specially designed carrier is also available. Reframing costs around Rs 200-300,” said Surendra Rajbhar, a native of Ahirauli.
In Sundi village, LPG cylinder is the prized good. A cylinder costs Rs 340 on the Indian side and in Nepal, it sells for Rs 850. Subsidy on petroleum products also makes them a viable choice for smugglers.
To facilitate the “trade”, smugglers have even erected a temporary bridge over River Rohin, which divides India and Nepal, at Nautanwa, a town 3km from the border.
“We charge Rs 2 from each cyclist who wants to cross the river,” said Usha Nishad, who “manages” the bridge. There is not much traffic during the day, come evening, cyclists rush to cross the border. The rush-hour goes well into the dawn. What about the policemen deputed along the highway? “We have deposited the fee in the police station,” said Usha.
When contacted, ADG (Law and Order) Brij Lal said the police officers have been directed to check smuggling of fertilizer and other goods.