Fuel shortages fears trigger panic buyingAgitating distributors, who are demanding fare hike, agree to resume supply as Oil Corporation commits to addressing their issues.
Raman Dawadi of Mulpani, on the northwestern rim of Kathmandu, was in a holiday mood, as it was Saturday. But he learned that there soon would be a fuel crisis.
The 22-year-old rushed to the nearest fuel seller to fill his motorcycle tank. But the petrol station was closed.
“I went to at least four fuel stations only to find them closed,” said Dawadi. “However, after burning some more petrol, I found one station at Jadibuti that was selling petrol. And the line was too long.”
According to Dawadi, he waited for around two hours to get the fuel.
“I don’t usually have my tank full. But I thought who knows when there will be shortages,” he said.
Like Dawadi, hundreds of people on Saturday queued up at various petrol stations in Kathmandu Valley, fearing shortages.
“While scrolling Facebook, I saw a post of people waiting in long queues for fuel,” said a man who didn’t wish to disclose his name at Sajha Petrol Pump in the Pulchowk area. “I am in this queue for about half an hour. I think it will take another half-hour as the line is too long.”
He was carrying two 2.25-litre empty bottles also hoping to get some extra fuel for his motorcycle.
“What to do? I need to save some for the coming days. I hope they will give me extra fuel,” said the man in his 30s.
The fuel shortage fears stemmed from petroleum transporters’ decision to stop loading and unloading petroleum products from Indian depots, from where Nepal Oil Corporation’s supplies come, and domestic depots of the oil monopoly.
According to the workers at Sajha in Pulchowk, Lalitpur, they have been seeing crowds since Friday, leading them to seek traffic police’s help to manage the queues.
“Almost everyone wants their tanks full,” said an employee at the station who refused to provide his identity. “At this pace, we too will run out of stock very soon and close the station.”
The National Petroleum Dealers Organisational Coordinating Committee has stopped collecting petroleum products since Friday, saying that its demands remain unaddressed.
“We will not collect petroleum products and transport them unless our demands are addressed,” Bishwo Prasad Aryal, general secretary of Nepal Petroleum Dealers National Association, a member of the committee, told the Post.
The committee consists of Nepal Petroleum Dealers National Association, Federation of Petroleum Transportation Traders and Nepal LP Gas Industry Association.
It has been demanding a hike in transportation fare at the rate of the rise in diesel price. It is also demanding that Nepal Oil Corporation not cut down “the commission” that petroleum traders are getting.
“The diesel price has been rising steadily but the corporation is not adjusting the transportation fare,” said Aryal. “How can we transport fuel?”
The state-owned oil monopoly jacked up the price of petrol by Rs5 per litre to Rs150 per litre on March 3 and diesel and kerosene prices by Rs5 per litre to Rs133 per litre. But it did not increase the commission provided to retailers despite an agreement that it would do so given the rise in prices.
The dealers were expected to get a 3.12 percent increase in commission in petrol and a 3 percent increase in diesel with the new adjusted rate.
On March 4, petroleum dealers stopped buying gasoline from oil depots as part of their protest. The committee announced that it would launch a protest if the corporation did not hike their commission within 15 days.
According to Nepal Oil Corporation, the price of petrol has increased by 31.35 percent to Rs155 per litre within a year. The price of diesel and kerosene has increased by 36.63 percent to Rs138 per litre while liquefied petroleum gas price has increased by Rs12.5 percent to Rs1,575. The corporation has revised fuel prices 18 times within a year.
Binit Mani Upadhyay, deputy director of Nepal Oil Corporation, said the transporters stopped loading and unloading petroleum products from depots from Friday.
“We have asked petroleum depots across the country to remain open even on public holidays and Saturdays. We have 152,000 litres of petrol and 80,000 litres of diesel at our Thankot depot which is ready to go to government-owned petrol pumps,” said Upadhyay.
Following negotiations, however, the two sides on Saturday reached an agreement.
The agitating petroleum dealers’ committee took back the protest and agreed to supply fuel including the liquefied petroleum gas.
In a meeting held between the protesting committee and the corporation, the latter agreed to bring an appropriate conclusion within seven days regarding commission on petroleum product distribution and transportation fare adjustment.
In a joint statement, the corporation said all fuel depots will be open from 8am, Sunday.
According to Upadhyay, a four-member study panel led by a joint-secretary from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, which was formed on March 13, had made some recommendations.
“We had requested the agitaging petroleum associations to withdraw their protest on Friday, citing the absence of the corporation’s managing director and other senior officials who have gone to India for a petroleum agreement that is going to expire after its five-year tenure,” said Upadhyay. “But the agitating committee stopped loading and unloading petroleum products.”
According to Upadhyay, the corporation had requested the agitating committee not to launch any protest until June 15.
Regarding the transportation fare demand of petroleum traders, the corporation has already received a study report. The report has been sent to Pulchowk Engineering Campus for suggestions.
“It will take some time to implement the new fares,” said Upadhyay. “We had told the agitating committee that we would address their genuine demands.”