Petrol pumps start to go dry in capital

January 8th, 2009 - 4:11 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 8 (IANS) Most petrol pumps went “dry” Thursday in the national capital, the second day of the strike by oil sector employees, with new supplies yet to reach the fuel stations.The Oil Sector Officers’ Association (OSOA), an umbrella body of 45,000 employees in the public oil sector companies, have called for a strike to force the government to give them wage hikes.

At a Connaught Place petrol pump, motorists entered the station only to be told that there was no petrol and diesel stock. “We went dry yesterday (Wednesday) night and no supplies have arrived so far,” said an employee of the 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 that 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 another outlet in the Rohini neighbourhood, manager Mahavir Jain said his stocks would dry up by Thursday evening. “All the three pumps nearby have gone dry and we have a demand which is three to four times the normal. I am afraid that our stocks will end by evening, and the next supply is doubtful,” Jain said.

But outlets of Hindustan Petroleum Corp, where employees have not joined the strike, have been reaping the benefit with higher sales. “I thought that due to a holiday (on account of the Muharram festival), we will have slow 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.

Meanwhile, the government and the oil sector officers associations are sticking to their respective positions.

The government has argued that the officers should have faith in the committee chaired by the Home Minister P. Chidambaram that is looking into their grievances.

On the other hand, association leaders have stated that the government has made previous commitments on this issue, which it has failed to fulfil.

Efforts to reach a reconciliation Wednesday night failed after OSOA leaders failed to reach the venue. According to sources, OSOA president Amit Kumar has gone underground after a warrant for his arrest was issued.

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.

Meanwhile, gas supplies are severely hit in the western region, where the ONGC’s facilities have been shut down. Consequently, GAIL India has not been able to process gas and distribute it to its industrial consumers, chiefly fertiliser and power plants.

There are already reports of power shortages in Maharashtra, while over a dozen urea plants are shut down.

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