Gas bottling plants’ decision to launch protest draws flak

Kathmandu, June 20

Households that had finally started to heave a sigh of relief following normalisation in supply of cooking gas are likely to be disappointed once again, as gas bottling plants have taken an ‘inconsiderate’ decision to halt imports of the essential commodity — liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) — from tomorrow.

This move aimed at hurting millions of consumers has been criticised by the government as well as a consumer rights organisation. Even the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), the largest umbrella body of the private sector, has said gas bottling plants should have resolved the issue through dialogue.

These reactions came as the Nepal LP Gas Industry Association (NLPGIA), the umbrella body of gas bottling plants, today directed all its members not to collect product delivery order (PDO) from Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) for an indefinite period of time, citing the government failed to revise its decision to suspend issuance of PDO to Himalayan Petrochemical (HP) Pvt Ltd.

PDO is a document based on which the Indian Oil Corporation, the sole supplier of cooking gas to Nepal, provides LPG supplies to gas bottling plants in the country.

The Consumer Protection Council of the government had stopped issuing PDO to HP Pvt Ltd after one of the gas cylinders circulated by the company exploded in Lalitpur on May 20 killing three.

The NLPGIA had given the government a deadline of until today to roll back its decision to suspend issuance of PDO.

“Since the government has failed to do so, we request all our members not to collect PDO from NOC until further notice,” says a press statement issued today by the NLPGIA.

The Ministry of Supply (MoS) has termed the NLPGIA’s move ‘insensitive’.

“At a time when three people have lost their lives, gas bottling plants shouldn’t be playing politics,” MoS Spokesperson Anandaram Regmi said, adding, “We have already told HP Pvt Ltd to extend compensation to the families of those who were killed. We hope the company will do so and the NLPGIA will take back its decision to halt imports.”

The inconsiderate move made by the NLPGIA has not gone down well with consumers as well.

“This is anarchy. The culture of violating law of the land and evading punishment by issuing threats to the government is gradually being embedded in our society. The ultimate victim of this ongoing practice is end consumers,” said President of National Consumer Forum, Prem Lal Maharjan. “It is sad the government cannot even protect the interest of consumers by taking action against those who violate laws.”

He also said the practice of suspending issuance of PDO was not new. “Many companies have faced similar government action in the past. So, why are they trying to make a fuss this time is a big question,” Maharjan added.

FNCCI President Pashupati Murarka said, “We have always advocated for dialogue, rather than protests, to resolve contentious issues.”