Panic sets in as oil, cooking gas supplies run dry in Tamil Nadu (Lead)

January 7th, 2009 - 11:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Jan 7 (IANS) With tanker owners’ unions joining the strike by over 55,000 employees of 14 public sector oil companies, panic set in Tamil Nadu since Wednesday afternoon after fuel stations put up “no-stock” placards. This was a complete turnaround from vendors’ confident statements earlier in the day.

“As tankers with supplies did not arrive since afternoon, we have no alternative but to put up ‘no-stock’ boards. Since this happened, second time in three months, our clientele are hard pressed,” N.R. Manimaran, a fuel vending unit owner in the southern edge of the city, told IANS.

“Though many believe our words, we hear that other fuel vending stations have been abused by customers who think we are hoarding petrol and diesel,” he added.

This development may also affect the ongoing Pravasi Bharatiya Divas meet here as most luxury car operators are at their wits’ end to source fuel for their vehicles.

“I had to cancel six bookings from clients coming from the Middle East and the US for the next two days because there is no fuel for the cars. I may lose their custom perhaps permanently,” rued N. Narayanan, a car-hire service outfit owner.

Chennai Petroleum Corp (CPC) officials, who earlier in the day said their company was ensuring supplies despite the strike, were unavailable for comment in the evening.

While armed police vehicles were accompanying fuel trucks operating here, long queues of tankers outside oil companies dwindled towards the evening as the chances of getting supplies dimmed, eyewitnesses said.

“Three months ago, we saw an artificial shortage here. Now, everyone is on strike. Not only my vehicle is bone dry of fuel, we cannot cook tonight as there is no cooking gas supply at home,” Meherunnissa Babar, a housewife, said in Triplicane, the centre of the city.

S. Sridhar, a spokesman of the striking employees, said their strike was justified in all respects as their demands were simple.

“Our demands of proper rationalisation of pay-scales are simple and need-based. Earlier, the managements said continuing losses were the causes for our unreasonably low salaries. Now that the international prices of crude have come down and our balance sheets are better, why not consider our demands?” he asked.

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