Kathmandu, Sep 25 (IANS) The ongoing violent protests in Nepal’s southern plains opposing the new constitution — promulgated on September 20 — have taken a toll on Nepal-India relations as petroleum major Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has stopped fuel supplies to Nepal from its three depots.
IOC is the sole supplier of petroleum products to Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) — the sole distributor for these products in the Himalayan nation.
NOC on Friday said IOC refused to dispatch petroleum products from its Raxaul, Baitalpur and Siliguri depots, citing various reasons such as mechanical failure at the Baitalpur depot and orders from its headquarters to the Siliguri depot not to dispatch oil.
Friday was the second consecutive day that IOC sent no fresh supplies to NOC, it said.
Though the NOC claimed to be having enough fuel reserves, people were rushing to petrol pumps to fill their vehicles fearing an economic blockade.
Nepal had witnessed a 16-month economic and trade embargo beginning March 1989 imposed by India when people felt the scarcity of essential products and fuel for which Nepal is dependent on India.
The IOC has communicated to its Nepali counterpart that it would not supply petroleum products until the Terai unrest in Nepali was settled at the political level.
At Raxaul, a small town in Bihar’s East Champaran district located on the India-Nepal border, tankers were not allowed to park inside the IOC depot.
“As the tankers can not wait for long outside the depot due to traffic congestion, they are reluctant to transport fuel from Raxaul,” an NOC official said.
NOC imports petrol, diesel and aviation turbine fuel from various Indian depots, including Barauni, Raxaul, Baitalpur, Karnal, Mathura, Haldia, Banthara, Gonda and Siliguri.
It imports Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) from Haldia, Barauni, Mathura and Panipat depots.
“Fifteen tankers were sent to the Siliguri refinery plant on Thursday. But the IOC refused to refill them citing ‘orders’ from its Mumbai-based head-office,” said the NOC.
Of 30 fuel tankers sent to Baitalpur, only four received oil. “The Baitalpur depot has cited mechanical failure at its refinery.” Likewise, out of 50 tankers sent to Raxaul, only three received fuel supplies.
According to the NOC, 62 tankers that were supposed to enter India on Thursday to import fuel were unable to go there due to a strike in Birgunj, a border town of Nepal.
Cadres of the Joint Madhesi Democratic Front (JMDF) — spearheading the anti-constitution protests in the Nepal Terai — have stationed themselves at the entry-exit points of the Nepal-India border to ensure that no truck movement takes place across the border.
“All the checkpoints have been blocked, supplies have been halted,” said an official.
(Anil Giri can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)