Flooded roads in Guwahati on May 13

If the continuous rain and flooded roads gave headaches to the Guwahati residents, the closure of fuel pumps doubled their trouble on May 13.

The Assam Kaziranga University admissions

With Guwahati already facing a crisis on public transportation, be it the city buses or the private cab services (due to their numerous cancellations) people are forced to opt for their private vehicles.

And now with the sudden 24-hours strike of fuel depots as a protest against policies has landed the regular commuters in a difficult situation, especially on a rainy day.

“I’m late by three hours to reach the office. My car was stuck on the flooded road in the Hatigaon area. Then I had to engage a few individuals to push my car out of water. I called up a mechanic and finally reached office. It’s horrible,” said Rakesh Deka, a resident of Guwahati who works in a private bank.

The North East Petroleum Dealers’ Association (NEPDA) has, however, said that if their issues are not resolved soon, several depots will be left with no other option but to close down permanently. It stated that over 80 percent of the retail outlets have been functioning at a massive loss.

The NEPDA has threatened to go on indefinite strike from May 16 if the Oil companies do not respond to the demands of the association within the stipulated time. The protest comes in response to the alleged unlawful practices of oil transporters and the oil companies.

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Rajib Goswami, president of NEPDA told The News Mill that for the past few years, there has been a shortage in the delivery of oil from the company terminal.

“There is always a shortage of 150 to 200 litres of fuel in the delivery tankers. This has been happening for the past 4-5 years. Also, the transporters are deployed by the oil companies and are in their service. They do not have any links with the dealers. All their grievances and wants should be addressed by the company,” Goswami said.

“But for several months now the workers have been demanding ‘trip allowance’ from the dealers for each delivery, which is unauthorized and unacceptable. Recently, the Assam Petroleum Mazdoor Union has even served us a notice stating that as the dealers are not paying proper trip allowance to its members, they will boycott the supply of oil to the petrol pumps after May 14 if the matter is not resolved amicably. They are under the purview of the oil companies and the companies should have taken the necessary action. But both parties are working amid some understanding unknown to us.”

The NEPDA alleged that despite spending crores of taxpayers’ money the oil companies have deliberately halted the process of complete automation of fuel pumps.

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“We have been asking for automation but they have been strategically delaying, else the anomalies will be exposed,” he said.

The association has now demanded that the government should conduct an enquiry on the issue.

“The chief minister’s vigilance cell or the CID must conduct an enquiry as to who is attaining the benefits of the stolen oil. If they are supplying the dealers less in every tanker, where is the deduced amount going? Are oil officials involved in this scam?” questioned Goswami.

Petrol dealers’ are disappointed at the government’s failure to recognise their contributions in fighting the pandemic

“During the last two years of lockdown amid the pandemic, we have been working relentlessly. When the lockdown was announced, the deputy commissioner urged us to keep the fuel pumps open as essential services. With hardly a sale of 200 litres per day we kept the depots open. The expenses for functioning remained the same,” said Goswami.

The association stated that despite being on service throughout fuel depots were not recognised as frontline workers nor were they offered any benefit like other services functioning during the lockdown period.

Reportedly, retail outlets receive an average commission of Rs 2 per litre of fuel sold. However, the commission has been stagnant without any revision since 2015.

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“Even after numerous appeals, our prayers are still left unheard. Now with the present issues, we get just about 11,500 litres of oil by paying for 12,000 litres in each delivery.”

With such minimal commission reportedly several low selling retail outlets are incurring huge losses. “There is just about 8-10 high selling ROS, the rest all are low selling in Guwahati. But the expenses are all similar. At this rate, most fuel depots of the city will be forced to close shop, let also protest the closure,” opined the president of NEPDA.

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About Barasha Das

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Barasha Das is a journalist working in Northeast India region.

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