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Oil strike: Fuel pumps may run dry today

BS Reporters  |  Mumbai 

Many of the 37,000 petrol pumps across the country could go dry by tomorrow if the indefinite strike by executives from public sector oil companies continues.

Over 55,000 oil PSU officers from 14 oil companies —under the umbrella of the Oil Sector Officers Association (OSOA) — began their indefinite strike on Wednesday demanding higher wages.

Officers of Hindustan Petroleum, the third key retailer in the country with 9,000 outlets after Indian Oil Corporation and Bharat Petroleum, have not joined the strike.

While the state-run refiners are trying to ensure fuel supplies aren’t disrupted, dealers across the country say the existing stocks at the petrol pumps will barely last till tomorrow.

This is not the impact of the ongoing truckers’ strike since most of the oil companies have their own fleet to feed the main cities.

In Delhi, over 300 petrol pumps could suffer due to the shortfall in supply. “My petrol station sells 50,000 litres of diesel and petrol daily. I will suffer a loss of around Rs 15 lakh. There is no fresh supply and my station will go dry by this evening,” said Delhi-based Ajay Bansal, general secretary of the Federation of All-India Petroleum Traders.

Federation president Ashok Badhwar said, “We did not pick up enough stock from the refineries as we were expecting a fuel price cut. Now we are worried as our petrol pumps will run dry by tomorrow if the strike is not called off. These officers have gone on strike defying court orders, which is illegal.”

Petroleum Minister Murli Deora today said the government was looking at another fuel price cut.

The Delhi government has invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to deal with the striking officials and truckers. In Mumbai, the situation is no different. “If the strike is not called off in the next 48 hours, it would cripple the petrol pumps. Our fuel tankers are waiting to be refilled. The ongoing transporters strike will also impact the business badly,” said Ravi Shinde, president, Petrol Dealers’ Association, Mumbai.

The All-India Motor Transport Congress has called a nationwide indefinite strike, which entered its third day today. The Congress has been demanding reduction in diesel price by Rs 10 per litre and tyre prices by 35 per cent, moratorium on payment of installment and waiver of interest on truck finances, moratorium on payment of toll tax for six months and abolition of service tax on any service provided by goods transport agencies.

“While the existing stock of petrol and diesel will last till tomorrow, supply of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) will be impacted significantly, affecting the public transport system,” Shinde added.

Mahanagar Gas, which operates around 130 CNG outlets in Mumbai, said the strike had not impacted their outlets so far but if gas supply from the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) field in Bombay High was affected, it could impact their operations in the city. “If the situation does not improve, we will go for a phased shutdown of our outlets,” said P K Gupta, MD, Mahanagar Gas Ltd.

First Published: Thu, January 08 2009. 00:00 IST