More than 2,300 fuel pumps in Haryana on Monday stopped selling petrol and diesel to consumers as petroleum dealers on Monday went on an indefinite strike to press for various demands, including lower value-added tax (VAT) on diesel.
As many as 2,310 fuel pumps across the state went on strike from 6am, All Haryana Petroleum Dealers Association senior vice-president Palwinder Singh Oberoi said.
However, some pumps, directly owned by oil companies such as Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited, were open.
Dealers refused to meet Haryana BJP chief Subhash Barala on Sunday to resolve the matter, saying they would talk only to Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
The monthly sale of diesel in Haryana stands at 53 lakh kilo litres, dealers said.
Petroleum dealers are agitated over the alleged failure of the Haryana government to keep the tax on diesel lower than that in neighbouring states. They demanded that tax on diesel should be lower by 1-2% than the rates prevailing in neighbouring states. They claimed uniformity in tax rate on diesel in northern states would hit the sale of diesel in Haryana as 70% of the total sale of diesel is consumed by vehicles, including truck operators from other states.
Auto-rickshaw, taxi services hit
Auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers were the worst hit due to the fuel pump dealers’ strike in Rohtak. “We don’t have money to buy diesel in bulk and buy it on a daily basis. Most of us will have to wait for the strike to end,” said auto-rickshaw driver Bhupinder Singh.
The dealers were firm on their demands. “The strike may be extended if the government does not withdraw its decision,” said Bhushan Goel, the vice-president of the All Haryana Petroleum Dealers Association (AHPDA).
Long queues seen at company-owned outlets
The common man bore the brunt of the strike in Karnal, Kurukshetra, Panipat and Yamunanagar. Long queues were seen at pumps owned by oil companies in Karnal.
A government school teacher not willing to be named said that the state government should take strict action against pump dealers. “It is a business dispute. Why should the common man suffer? Petrol and diesel are essential commodities and those who have suspended its supply should be liable for punitive action,” she said.
NK Dua of Karnal’s Sector 8 said though the decision to increase VAT on diesel would affect the common man but suspending its sale was not right. “If the pump dealers fear losses, they should have suspended supply to government vehicles. They won’t gain sympathy if they hold the common man to ransom,” he added.
“Our office-bearers were approached by the state authorities for talks with officials on Monday evening but we have rejected the proposal. Nothing less than a rollback is acceptable,” said AHPDA president Dinesh Goyal.
BKU backs strike call
The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) has come out in support of the petrol pump owners. BKU state president Gurnam Singh Charuni said, “The Haryana government’s decision to increase VAT on diesel affects farmers too.”
(with agency inputs)