Kathmandu, February 17
The general public hoped that supply of daily essentials, including fuel, would ease after the end of the border blockade, but that hope has been dashed with shortage as well as rampant black-marketing still persisting.
While those capitalising on the dire situation continue with their illegal activities openly, regular market monitoring being conducted by the Department of Commerce and Supply Management has halted since last week after it was split into Department of Commerce and Department of Supply and Consumers’ Welfare Protection.
The split occurred after the government formed separate ministries to look into commerce and supply. However, delay in appointment of the executive and staff has adversely affected services the government is supposed to deliver.
Gokul Dhital, who was appointed as director general of DoSCWP today, said that it would take a few more days for the department to function in a full-fledged manner.
The new department will conduct organisational and management surveys to appoint the required staff first, according to Dhital. This means market monitoring activities of the government will be delayed until the newly-formed DoSCWP starts functioning.
“After the formation of a separate department for the execution of particular laws related to supply and consumer rights protection, market monitoring has gone out of DoC’s jurisdiction,” explained Shambhu Prasad Koirala, director general at DoC.
While monitoring activities have been stalled, consumer rights activists have warned that if rampant malpractice is not curtailed at the earliest, it could drive the market towards further disorder.
“Disruptions in smooth supply create a breeding ground for black-marketing and sale of inferior quality goods and services flourish,” said Jyoti Baniya, president of Consumers’ Welfare Protection Forum.
Coincidentally, market monitoring activities have been halted since last week, when Nepal Oil Corporation started distributing fuel from all the fuel stations. NOC had pledged to supply nearly double the volume of daily petrol demand during normal days since Monday.
However, the serpentine queues of vehicles in front of fuel stations tell a different story.
Even as NOC had promised to supply 600,000 litres of petrol to fuel stations on a daily basis (against the demand of 350,000 litres), Nepal Petroleum Dealers National Association informed that the state-owned company has been providing only around 460,000 litres of petrol per day in the Valley since Monday.
“It is alarming that the market monitoring body has been rendered defunct when it should be performing its duties effectively and efficiently now more than ever,” said Prem Lal Maharjan, president of National Consumer Forum.
He pointed out that the fuel supply situation is unlikely to ease unless the government promptly sets up an efficient distribution mechanism, which would also include effective monitoring of fuel stations.
In the meantime, the government claims to be fully aware of the current situation.
The prime minister’s Political Adviser Bishnu Rimal said the government leadership is aware of the existing problems and has asked the Secretary at Prime Minister’s Office Kedar Bahadur Adhikari to handle the situation in coordination with the Ministry of Supply.