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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fuel Shortage: Petrol / Diesel not available - trouble in Chennai

Oil companies last week raised the price of petrol by Rs 7.50 per litre. The petrol price in Chennai went up to Rs 77.53 per litre.  In Economics, when prices go up, demand would decrease.  The city presents an ugly sight with massive crowds queuing up for hours to get little fuel – people becoming restless and fighting with others, as tempers fray.    Here, people are struggling to get the goods even at a higher prices, even where they are prepared to pay more than the risen price.  The City has plunged in to a deep crisis.  After the steep petrol hike, there have been assurances that diesel prices still would not go up.  In a piquant situation, most petrol bunks have run dry or [in fact] have stopped dispensing – strange because – diesel is not sold as traders still expect a rise in price and perhaps are hoarding for making gain; petrol is not being indented as some partial roll-back in prices is expected.

Photo courtesy : Hindu Businessline.
End result is commotion – long and winding serpentine queues in front of the few open Petrol bunks – frayed tempers, fisticuffs, heated exchange – all on hot days with city already suffering from power cut……. What an ordeal for the common man.. petrol prices have gone up by Rs.7.50; left with no choice, common man has the mental make up to fill up the vehicles – there sure would be spiraling prices – vegetables will go up citing hike in petrol price, autos and vehicles [even ones running on diesel] would quote the scripture for hiking the rates.  It is common in the city to watch petrol pumps announcing dry, open ones feeling restive facing massive crowds with people queuing up with cans and bottles to get petrol.   It is a blame game - the petrol pump associations are blaming oil companies for not supplying enough fuel, oil companies have vehemently denied any shortage.

Tamil Nadu Petroleum Dealers Association President  said there was shortage of supply of petrol and diesel due to reported under production by the refineries. And there was a peculiar justification stating the demand has risen ! – has that happened overnight ? – and what logic that people buy more when prices have gone up ??  It is stated that there are penal provisions and authorities can verify the stock and take action against hoarders.

It is stated that crowds at two petrol pumps at Ekkaduthangal around 10 am caused a traffic backup stretching as far as the Kathipara flyover.  Unable to reach the point of congestion from the Guindy side, traffic cops trying to clear the roads said they had to rely on their colleagues from Ashok Nagar, where the roads were empty, to track back and lend a hand. Similar scenes were heard  all across the city.  It is torrid, scorching heat, traffic jams and pressure of how long would the fuel in the vehicle last !!

Slowly but surely, the diesel shortage would affect the operation of Companies as most run on diesel generators due to frequent power cuts.  There are reports of  BPCL  planning to move an oil tanker to the Chennai port tomorrow. Both IOCL and HPCL tankers are also expected to berth at Chennai port by tomorrow and is expected to infuse 67,000 KL of diesel into city pumps.  Some opine that the unplanned shutdown of one of the units of CPCL from April 27 to May 14 impacted availability of diesel to a certain extent. The shutdown of MRPL between April 12 and 22 due to water shortage further impacted availability across the three Southern States — Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

The Oil Companies have made a request to consumers not to take more than their requirements and hoard diesel. Tamil Nadu, through the Civil Supplies Department,  is also expected to  carry out checks to ensure that no hoarding takes place.  One shudders to think of what would happen if the State run Metropolitan Transport Corporation runs short of diesel.  A Press release from the State-level coordinator for oil industry states that State Govt convened a meeting and that three tanker vessels with fresh supplies were expected to berth at Chennai port today [29.5.12]   The spokesperson is quoted as stating that there was no issue with petrol availability but there was some problem of dealers insisting on combination of loads, as ordering a full tanker load (either 12,000 or 20,000 litres) of petrol alone entails a huge investment.

For motorists, however, the chaotic situation continues as there is panic reaction, long serpentine queues, frayed tempers but no solution immediately seen.    Do you have a cycle at home and is your place proximate enough ?

Elsewhere, after  Kerala and Uttarakhand, Delhi is the third to give the common man slight respite from the steepest-ever hike in petrol prices – it is no reduction in any great measure; Delhi announced a 20% reduction in VAT which will bring the rate by Rs.1.26 per litre.  – still Rs 71.92 a litre.  However, the capital will have to shell out more money for compressed natural gas (CNG) which would cost more after a proposed levy of 5% tax in the Budget yesterday.

With regards
S. Sampathkumar.


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