KATHMANDU, Feb 23: Prem Kumar Rai, the secretary of the Ministry of Supplies, has said that agitating petroleum tanker operators should be jailed, stating that they have been disrupting supply of essential products.
Speaking at a discussion on supply of petroleum products at the parliamentary Consumer Rights Protection Committee, Rai said that the ministry, as a regulator, cannot remain a mute spectator as tanker operators have been disrupting supplies of petroleum products for the past few days, creating shortage of fuel in the Kathmandu Valley. “Disrupting supply of essential products like petroleum products is a serious crime. The state should initiate stringent action against such people,” he added.
Long queues can be seen in fuel stations in different parts of the Kathmandu Valley because of the disruption in supply.
Demanding amendments in Petroleum Products Transportation Bylaw introduced by the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC), the agitating tanker operators close to General Federation of Nepali Trade Unions (GEFONT) have brought supply of petroleum products to a grinding halt since Friday by not loading fuel from Indian oil refineries. They have submitted a 15-point demand, including amendment to the bylaw. The tanker operators had threatened to halt supply complete from Monday.
The new bylaw requires operators to maintain a minimum fleet size of five tankers, and pay fine to NOC if the volume of petroleum products is less than what is prescribed in the bylaw.
Before the bylaw came into effect, operators with a single tanker were also allowed to supply petroleum products.
Likewise, the bylaw also states the tanker operator has to pay fine if their ‘technical loss’ is more than 30 liters.
According to the National Consumers Forum, tankers have been reporting technical loss of around 235 liters in recent years. Officials of the forum say that tanker operators have been stealing fuel from tankers and selling them in the market. “Most of the tanker drivers, who have become tanker operators themselves, have been stealing and selling petroleum products,” the forum claimed, asking the government to take stern action against them.
The forum presented a memorandum to Minister for Supplies Deepak Bohara on Wednesday, urging the ministry to immediately take action against the agitating tanker operators. It even urged the minister to cancel permit of tankers if the operators do not abide by the law and withdraw their protest program.
Due to supply disruption and also protest in different Tarai districts, the demand for petroleum products has increased substantially. The demand has not subsided despite the NOC doubling supply of petrol since Sunday.
Khageswor Bohara, president of Nepal Petroleum Transporters Federation, said only the tanker operators close to (GEFONT) have disrupted supply. “Other tanker operators are supplying petroleum products as usual,” he added.
Around 1,800 petroleum tankers are in operation in different parts of the country. Of them, around 800 are individually owned.