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Near-total petrol pump strike causes no crisis

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Nearly all petrol pumps throughout the country remained closed on Monday in protest against a failure to raise dealers' commission and ensure the quality of petroleum products. According to the Petroleum Ministry, the strike did not create a crisis, since most people had filled up their tanks in advance.

Though most retail outlets remained closed during the 24-hour strike called by the Federation of All India Petroleum Traders (FAIPT), the company-owned outlets, as well as the limited marketing network of private companies like Reliance, Essar and Shell remained open. The company-owned outlets comprise about 2500 of the total 25,000 petroleum retail dealerships in the country.

Lower demand

Petroleum Ministry officials said oil companies had given widespread advance publicity about the one-day strike at their outlets, which enabled most people to ensure that there was no shortfall during the agitation. Besides, demand for fuel was lower as today was a public holiday, they pointed out.

In contrast, the FAIPT president, Ashok Badhwar, said that the strike had been total and demonstrated the solidarity of petrol dealers over the agitation. The protest was launched by the Federation in support of a demand for shifting the dealers' commission on petrol and diesel from specific rates to ad valorem basis. This would result in a significant increase in revenues for petrol dealers. Currently, the specific rate of commission comes to 1.59 per cent on petrol and 1.27 per cent on diesel, which is sought to be raised to five per cent by the FAIPT.

Other demands raised by the FAIPT include the uniform pricing of petroleum products throughout the country and ensuring that the quality of oil products delivered by the oil companies is checked by equipment at the petrol pumps.

The Ministry, however, is of the view that existing margins for dealers are sufficient to generate sizable revenues in urban areas.

These could, however, be raised for outlets in remote areas where the volume of business is relatively lower, it feels.

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