Although the three-day-long strike by 45,000 officers of 13 public sector oil companies ended on Friday, normal life continued to be disrupted, as 37,000 petrol pumps across the country were running dry.
The strike ended as employees of the largest oil company, Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), and Bharat Petroleum Corporation agreed to go back to work. IOC chairman Sarthak Behuria said the company would work through the weekend to fill up the empty petrol pumps across the country.
Meanwhile, refineries at Panipat and Haldia, and even at Mathura – one of the biggest in north India – were forced to shut down. What’s more, six of the seven National Thermal Power Corporation plants that use gas and naphtha ran out of gas and were running on naphtha.
Some state governments took a tough stand on the strikers. Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana slapped the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) on Friday to keep the fuel supply line intact.
The Haryana government banned the strike for six months and declared the services of the oil company employees in the state as “essential”.
Meanwhile, reports coming from all corners of the country showed that the hardest hit were the far-flung and hilly states, besides the metropolitan cities.
Himachal Pradesh was among the worst sufferers. Long queues of vehicles could be seen at all the petrol pumps in capital Simla, as the pumps started fuel rationing. Supplies of vegetables and other necessary items had also been affected.
The fuel crisis also affected the state’s tourism industry, as the Himachal Roadways Transport Corporation and private buses could not run due to the fuel crisis.
The impact of the strike began to tell on Assam too, which accounted for almost 10 per cent of India’s petroleum output. More than half the pumps ran out of stock. Ditto with LPG outlets. “The supply was being squeezed for the last three months,” said LPG dealer Satyamrit Kagti.
In Ahmedabad, nearly 80 per cent of the cities’ petrol pumps ran dry by Friday morning. The city roads wore a nearly deserted look by late afternoon. Similar scenes were witnessed in other major cities like Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot.
In Kolkata, the state government announced rationing of petroleum products on Friday morning. But Patna witnessed a virtual oil riot on Friday. The administration had to arrange security at all petrol stations.
Madhya Pradesh was also hard hit, as IOC accounted for more than 50 per cent petrol pumps in the state. Only the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation-run pumps remained functional.
In the south, Andhra Pradesh witnessed a near-collapse in fuel supply, with 90 per cent of pumps going dry. The situation was grave in cities like Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada.
In the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, police forces had to be deployed at the pumps to prevent rioting.