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Prices rising but no end to strikes in sight

india Updated: Jan 09, 2009 00:00 IST
HT Correspondents

Although the Central government is claiming that the situation is being tightly monitored, the consumer is facing a severe crisis due to the twin strikes by truckers and executives of the public sector oil companies.

Reports from across the country said petrol pumps were fast running out of stocks, while prices for perishable products were skyrocketing due to the four-day-old truckers’ strike.

There was a backlog of domestic LPG supplies, too. What’s more, flights are being delayed, as refuelling services are affected because of the absence of employees.

Although the oil company managements had meetings with Oil Sector Officers Association, an umbrella body, the crisis is still far from resolved. The officers are protesting lower-than-expected increase in pay.

Petroleum secretary R.S. Pandey said the officers were “being unjustified, as the government has already agreed to form a high level panel to look into the demands.”

Pandey, however, admitted that as many as 40 per cent petrol pumps of Indian Oil Corporation and Bharat Petroleum Corporation in Delhi had already gone dry. IOC chairman Sarthak Behuria said, “If the strike continues, we might see dry-outs from tomorrow.”

However, reports from all metros said only Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL) dealers were functioning, as HPCL officers did not join the strike.

Mumbai Petrol Dealers’ Association president Ravi Shinde said the association would provide moral support to the strikers. His deputy, Amarjit Singh, accused Petroleum Minister Murli Deora of dragging his feet on the salary issue.

In Mumbai, vice president of the RPG group-owned retail chain, Spencer’s, Samar Shekhawat said vegetables, fruits, fish, meat and other diary product prices witnessed a hike of 10-15 per cent.

In Chennai, the wholesale Koyembedu vegetable market was not affected in a big way, although the poultry belt of Namakkal in Western Tamil Nadu is stuck with a stock of 70 million eggs.

In Kolkata, prices of essential goods and food items increased marginally till Thursday. But petrol pumps may run dry from Thursday night if the strike continues.

Of the more than 2,000 petrol pumps in West Bengal, 1,500 are already dry and of the 375 pumps in and around Kolkata, only about 90 — all HPCL dealers — have stocks.

In Bangalore, the supply line is being maintained by HPCL, Shell and Essar till now. But the city may run short of supply by Friday. Bangalore Petroleum Dealers’ Association President Bhushan Narang said, “I hope the strike is called off tonight.”

(Inputs from Anupama Airy in Delhi, P. Srinivasan in Jaipur, B.R. Srikanth in Bangalore, Debdutta Ghosh in Kolkata, M.R. Venkatesh in Chennai and agencies)