Chennai/Mumbai, April 18 (IANS) Fuel bunks in seven states and Puducherry will be shut every Sunday starting May 14, it was announced on Tuesday, to protest the public sector oil companies’ failure to hike dealer margins.
The decision will cover Haryana, Maharashtra and the entire southern region — Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala as well as Puducherry.
There are some 56,000 petrol bunks across the country. At present, many outlets are open between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. while some operate round the clock.
Spokespersons for the dealers’ associations are, however, portraying it as a move aimed at saving fuel and foreign exchange for the country.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged people to follow traffic rules and also save petrol and diesel. So we have decided to declare a holiday on Sundays as it will save fuel and foreign exchange,” K.P. Murali, President of the Tamil Nadu Petroleum Dealers Association, told IANS.
“On an average the daily sales of fuel is for around Rs 153 crore. While exact figures are not available on sales on Sundays, it will be around 20 per cent less,” he said.
Murali said the Sunday-holiday decision will save around 20 per cent fuel burned in the country.
“We are within our right to declare Sunday a holiday. All these days we have been paying workers double wages,” he said. The outlets will have one staffer on Sundays to supply fuel in an emergency.
In Mumbai, the President of the Federation of All Maharashtra Petrol Dealers Association, Uday Lodh, said the move was in support of various demands with the oil marketing companies.
He added that petrol pumps in the seven states and Puducherry will work from May 15 only on single shift — 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“We are operating on extremely low margins, selling high-tech unleaded petrol-diesel products in which the evaporation rate is very high, resulting in huge losses,” Lodh told IANS.
Additionally, the need to pay a certain minimum salary to the staffers at petrol pumps “has become unaffordable due to the low operating margins”, he said.
Ashok Nareddi of the Telangana Petroleum Dealers Association told IANS that the move will hugely save energy, slash electricity consumption and help the dealers to better use their manpower.
“It may take two to three weeks for people to adjust to the new schedule,” he said.
Nareddi said trucks, other four wheelers and bikes have sufficient fuel tank capacity to store fuel for a travel of 300 to 500 km. “So those who buy diesel or petrol a day in advance will have no problems.”
Petroleum dealers in Haryana said the holiday move followed a decision of the Consortium of Indian Petroleum Leaders (CIPD) to observe a one-shift sale model.
The dealers have decided to intensify their agitation as the three public sector oil companies have not reviewed the dealer margins since 2011.
The CIPD, which represents nearly 55,000 petroleum dealers across India, met last week in Kurukshetra.
A.B. Sathyanarayan, National President of CIPD, said that the “indifferent” attitude of the top management of the oil companies forced the association to take the decision.
Haryana’s Minister of State for Food and Civil Supplies Karan Dev Kamboj, a petroleum dealer himself, said the demands of the petroleum dealers were genuine.
M. Radhakrishnan, Secretary of the Kerala State Federation of Petroleum Traders, said the decision had evoked a mixed reaction.
A former President of the Federation, Alex Valakallil, said the idea was not feasible. “It is not a feasible idea.”