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With the Uttar Pradesh special task force (STF) cracking down on errant petrol pumps across the state, their owners went on a strike in Lucknow to protest against the action. The strike was later called off after the Lucknow district administration officials assured the petrol pump owners in a meeting that those running their business honestly should not be afraid of any action. Several petrol pumps in Uttar Pradesh had been caught by STF sleuths using electronic chips and remote controls to dispense a lower quantity of petrol and diesel to consumers. A number of petrol pumps, including one owned by UP Petrol Pump Dealers' Association President B N Shukla, had been sealed in Lucknow after they were caught cheating consumers. "The petrol pumps in the state capital went on strike late last night. Due to fear of STF action, their staff had run away and they had no option but to go on strike," an official of the association said. "We assured petrol pump owners that they should not be afraid of any action if they are running their business honestly.
They have called off their strike," Additional District Magistrate (Civil Supplies) Alka Verma told PTI after the meeting. A delegation of petrol pump owners later met Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma to explain their position. The sudden strike caused inconvenience to the people, who were seen lining up outside company-owned outlets, which were open. "The Yogi Adityanath government will not come under any pressure. The police action is justified and it was in favour of consumers," Cabinet minister Suresh Kumar Khanna said. His Cabinet colleague Siddharth Nath Singh described the problem as temporary and said the government would not "bow down to any pressure". He also blamed the previous SP government for not taking adequate steps to check the menace. The STF had initiated the crackdown on April 27 night when it raided seven petrol pumps. According to the force, they were tipped off that an electronic chip was being installed at the petrol pumps helping them get a profit worth lakhs of rupees per month. The chip, costing around Rs 3,000, reduced the output by nearly five to 10 per cent. It is attached with a wire which is linked with a remote control. The remote control sets the limit and if a customer purchases one litre petrol, he actually gets 940 ml or less. On an average, the petrol-pumps using this device were earning an undue profit Rs 14 lakh per month, according to the STF. Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had yesterday ordered inspection of all petrol pumps in Uttar Pradesh and random checks elsewhere to detect short-selling of petrol and diesel by tampering with the system in dispensing units. Pradhan had said though the responsibility of right quantity of product dispensed lies with state governments as their weights and measures department installs seals on dispensing units, two officials of state-owned fuel retailers have been suspended following the raids. Oil marketing company representatives will accompany the UP police STF and officials of the state's weights and measures department, the food and civil supply department for inspection of all petrol pumps in Uttar Pradesh, he said.