Petroleum Minister Murli Deora on Monday appealed to petrol dealers in Maharashtra to withdraw their indefinite strike against the state's high sales tax.
Around 2,200 pumps run by members of the Federation of All Maharashtra Petrol Dealers' Association (FAMPEDA) have shut operations. The petrol pumps run by oil companies are not observing the strike.
The indefinite strike, which began from Sunday midnight, is to protest the 34 per cent sales tax levied by the state government on petroleum products. This has led to much business from Maharashtra going to its neighbouring states, which have lower tax.
The sales tax in Maharashtra is one of the highest in the country. The tax in Goa is 21 per cent, in Andhra Pradesh 28 per cent and in Karnataka 30 per cent, said Ravi Shindhe, president of FAMPEDA.
FAMPEDA members aim to force the state authorities to lower the tax rates through the strike.
Deora appealed to retail outlet dealers of Maharashtra to withdraw the strike "so that the consumers are not put to any difficulty". He said he was sympathetic to the dealers' demands for reduction in sales tax rates.
He said he had raised the issue with the Maharashtra government and also facilitated a meeting of FAMPEDA representatives with the chief minister.
Urging the dealers to ensure that customers' interest is given top priority, Deora said: "I strongly appeal to the dealers to immediately call off their strike."
Meanwhile in Mumbai commuters are already feeling the effect of the strike. Taxis are opting to stay off the roads during non-peak hours and consumers are uncertain whether their fuel supplies will last till they are able to get a refill.
According to industry sources, apart from Mumbai, petrol pump operators in other areas of the state like Nasik and Nagpur have also downed shutters.