Long queues for fuel as petrol pumps start to go dry (Lead)

January 8th, 2009 - 11:21 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 8 (IANS) Alarmed Delhi’ites Thursday made a beeline for petrol pumps to tank up their vehicles as most petrol pumps went “dry” on the second day of a strike by oil sector employees demanding higher wages.Traffic jams were witnessed at several places in the national capital Thursday evening as people queued up with their vehicles at retail petrol vends fearing they would not get fuel on Friday.

The Oil Sector Officers’ Association (OSOA), an umbrella body of 45,000 employees in the public oil sector companies, has called the strike to force the government to give them wage hikes.

At a pump in R.K. Puram, south Delhi, the harried attendants were busy since morning catering to the unending lines of vehicles.

“Diesel is already over and petrol will end soon. Our team of 10 attendants is working continuously since morning. The only break we had was during lunchtime,” Vinod Yadav, the in-charge at the R.K Puram petrol pump, told IANS.

Shweta, who was caught in a traffic jam in south Delhi, said, “My car was stuck in traffic jam for more than two hours. My car’s fuel tank is full but I was stuck as others were queuing at petrol pumps,” she said.

Another commuter, Sahil, said: “I didn’t know the situation was so bad. When I went to get fuel for my motorcycle, the petrol pump attendants advised me to get the tank filled as they were unsure of the supply.”

At a Connaught Place petrol pump, many motorists had to turn away disappointed when they were told the petrol and diesel stocks had run out.

“We went dry yesterday (Wednesday) night and no supplies have arrived so far,” said an employee of the petrol station which is affiliated to Bharat Petroleum Corp. He said about 11,000 litres of fuel are sold every day.

It was a similar situation at a petrol pump on the Kapashera border. “We have gone dry since 4 p.m yesterday,” said Sunil Yadav, manager at the Rajasthan Highway Service Station.

Yadav said he has been trying to contact his liaison officers in Indian Oil Corp, but their phones had been switched off. “The Indian Oil depot at Bijwasan was open for about an hour, but it basically supplied to their company-run outlets,” he said.

At an outlet in Rohini, manager Mahavir Jain said his stocks ran dry by Thursday evening. “All the three pumps have gone dry. I am afraid that our stocks will end by evening, and the next supply is doubtful,” Jain said.

But outlets of Hindustan Petroleum Corp, whose employees have not joined the strike, have been reaping the benefits by recording higher sales.

“I thought that due to a holiday (on account of Muharram), we will have less sales as we do on Sunday. But the demand has almost doubled. People must have heard that our pump is running,” said Satish Kumar, the manager at a petrol pump in Bhikaji Cama.

The Delhi High Court has restrained the strike call, and state governments like Delhi and Assam have invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act. Delhi Police Wednesday arrested two OSOA leaders, while the companies have suspended several strikers.

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