Black-marketeers fuel petrol shortage rumour

Kathmandu, March 29

Just when the supply of petrol had nearly normalised in the Kathmandu Valley, a dispute between Nepal Oil Corporation and fuel station owners has created a fertile ground for black-marketeers.

Capitalising on the stand-off, black-marketeers have circulated a rumour that Indian Oil Corporation has cut supply of fuel to Nepal after the country signed Transit Transport Agreement with China.

NOC has already dismissed the rumour as ‘baseless’ and urged consumers not to get swayed by hearsay.

However, with the memories of acute shortage due to the border blockade still fresh in their minds, panic-stricken buyers have started hoarding fuel and long queues of vehicles can be seen in front of fuel stations since Friday.

The altercation between fuel stations and the state-owned petroleum company started last week. The pump owners slashed the quantity of fuel they were purchasing from Thankot depot of Kathmandu alleging that the depot was dispatching less quantity than the quoted amount  a claim that NOC refutes.

Coincidentally, the supply of fuel from India was also affected on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday due to Holi festival in Kathmandu, Tarai and India, respectively.

Consequently, majority of fuel stations in the Valley had run out of fuel by the weekend, which seemed to back the rumour spread by the black-marketeers, according to Sushil Bhattarai, acting deputy managing director of NOC.

Considering the long queues of vehicles, NOC has said that it increased fuel supply from its stock on Sunday and Monday  400 kl and 600 kl, respectively.

However, today NOC was able to supply only 299 kl due to lack of capacity to increase supply, according to Netra Prasad Kafle, NOC’s Thankot Depot chief.

“The supply will be increased from tomorrow as fuel tankers are scheduled to arrive from Raxaul.”

The daily demand of petrol in the Kathmandu Valley hovers at around 350 kl during normal times. Due to dispute between NOC and fuel stations regarding quantity of fuel, average supply from Thankot depot stood at only 275 kl per day last week.

NOC had made price adjustment of fuel calculating shrinkage loss  0.63 per cent in petrol and 0.45 per cent in diesel. But the Nepal Petroleum Dealers’ National Association claims NOC diverts tankers arriving from India directly to fuel stations to minimise its loss.

“We have been receiving less quantity than we have paid for,” claimed Lilendra Prasad Pradhan, president of NPDNA.

NPDNA has been demanding that tankers that enter the country should be topped up in Thankot depot before they are dispatched to the fuel stations.

Kalfe, head of Thankot depot, has said that the claim made by NPDNA is unfounded and that NOC has already written to the association to send their representatives to the depot to see for themselves that the fuel stations are not being cheated.

Fuel station owners have also alleged that NOC has been creating hassles in smooth supply.

“As long as the supply continues to be erratic, the government and monitoring agencies will not focus on the issues related to quality and quantity and it gives room to NOC to play on that grey area,” explained Pradhan.