Fuel supply near normal in metros, small towns suffer (Second Lead)

January 10th, 2009 - 9:31 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 10 (IANS) Fuel supplies to petrol stations in northern India were near normal in the metros Saturday evening after the nationwide oil sector strike ended the previous day, but stocks at outlets in smaller cities and towns remained short, a trade body official said.”Hindustan Petroleum has been able to supply fuel to at least 80 percent of the petrol stations in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and other northern towns and cities. But the supplies are still not normal in many non-metros and towns,” Ashok Badhawar, president of trade body Federation of All India Petroleum Traders, told IANS.

Badhawar said oil depots across the country are distributing fuel through oil tankers and trains. “There is nothing to panic about now. Oil refineries are working non-stop to clear the backlog,” he said.

“Oil companies always store 20 days of stock, so major cities would get fresh supplies immediately,” Badhawar said.

But he warned that it would take at least three to four days for the oil companies to stabilise supplies across the country.

“They (oil companies) have to supply oil to far-flung places. That would take some time. We have been told by them that all striking employees have joined work and supplies will normalise in the next two to three days,” he said.

State-owned oil marketing majors such as Indian Oil Corp (IOC) were open Saturday, and will also work Sunday to replenish stocks in the outlets across the country after most ran dry following the crippling oil sector strike.

Badhawar said there are about 38,650 pumps owned by the state-run oil companies in the country.

Hundreds of petrol and diesel stations reopened Saturday, after the strike ended Friday evening.

Most of the Indian capital’s 413 fuel stations began to function by noon after receiving fresh stocks from the oil companies.

Some 45,000 officers from the major oil firms went on an indefinite strike Wednesday demanding higher salaries. The strike involving 13 public sector oil firms was called off late Friday evening after the government warned that the strikers would be sacked and arrested if they did not resume work.

The three-day strike virtually crippled road traffic in many cities, partly because of panic buying, besides shutting down refineries.

The rush at fuel stations in New Delhi and elsewhere Saturday was not very much, the day being a holiday for all government and many private sector offices, as well as educational institutions.

The end of the strike was immediately felt in the Indian capital and other major cities as vehicles returned to roads in large numbers after two days of sparse traffic.

Sarita Dey, a resident of Chittaranjan Park in south Delhi, said she was relieved to see a “normal state of affairs” at fuel stations.

“Yesterday (Friday) was a nightmare. I had to wait for more than an hour to refuel my car. And what do I get at the end of it? Petrol worth Rs.500. Thankfully things have become smoother today,” Dey told IANS.

Samir Khan, another Delhi resident, said it was a relief to see vehicles moving in and out of fuel stations without much delay.

“After the last two days’ experience of getting stuck in jams because of the queues outside petrol pumps, today was a huge relief,” Khan said.

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