KATHMANDU, APRIL 3
Vehicles owners, who had sighed in relief after the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) inked an agreement with the agitating fuel transporters on Saturday night and assured of smooth supply of petroleum products, were in for an unpleasant surprise today.
Most private fuel stations remained closed and the serpentine queues seen outside the state-owned pumps since the last two days seemed longer than ever.
The National Petroleum Dealers Organisational Coordinating Committee - comprising Nepal Petroleum Dealers' National Association (NPDNA), Federation of Petroleum Transportation Traders and Nepal LP Gas Industry Association - had stopped collecting petroleum products since Friday, demanding revision of commission rate and adjustment to transportation fare.
The committee had, however, called off the strike after signing a written agreement with the NOC. Issuing a press release on Saturday following the agreement, NOC had assured smooth supply of petroleum products by operating its depots from as early as 8:00am today.
According to Narad Prasad Bhandari, executive secretary at NPDNA, the supply disruption has persisted due to the obstructions by fuel tankers.
"We are not responsible for the fuel supply disruptions today," informed Bhandari, adding that as per the information he had received fuel tanker drivers of NOC had created obstructions at the Thankotbased depot of NOC.
NOC Spokesperson Binit Mani Upadhyaya did not respond to requests for comment.
The supposed stand-off, meanwhile, meant a massive headache for the general public.
Nirmal Dhamala, a resident of Hattiban, was in a queue outside Sajha petrol pump, Pulchowk for two hours in scorching heat to purchase petrol today. He said he had to take half-day leave at work to queue at Sajha as many private fuel stations had hung up 'No Petrol and Diesel' signs at the pumps.
"Most private petrol pumps are closed despite the withdrawal of protest, so I didn't have any other option," Dhamala lamented.
As per the Saturday's agreement, the corporation has said outstanding issues related to commission to the fuel stations and adjustment of cooking gas transport fare will be resolved within seven days. As for the other issues, the two sides decided to settle them by the end of next month.
However, should NOC be unable to keep its words, the committee has warned of halting the fuel supply again. This is also a matter of concern for many consumers, due to which a lot of people have resorted to panic buying, which in turn is aggravating the crisis.
According to Bhandari, NOC, which had been paying 3.395 per cent commission on petrol and 3.12 per cent on diesel, stopped giving the commission without prior notice citing fuel price hike in the international market. "We never demanded a hike in commission despite getting only 35 paisa profit per litre.
But NOC stopped paying that too citing high fuel price after the price of petrol reached Rs 145 per litre."
Most recently the NOC increased the prices of petrol, diesel and kerosene by five rupees per litre each effective from March 18. After the revision, a litre of petrol now costs Rs 155, and diesel and kerosene Rs 138.
Even state-owned fuel suppliers, in a bid to discourage fuel consumption, had submitted a 10-point proposal last week to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, suggesting a two-day public holiday and reintroduction of the odd-even rule for vehicles.
A version of this article appears in the print on April 4, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.