Amid mounting uncertainty, the corporation since Wednesday has asked gas depots to provide only a cylinder of cooking gas to a family per month. The public enterprise has directed the depots to record the details of households that purchase cooking gas.
KATHMANDU, March 26: While the government is struggling to maintain smooth supply of essentials during a weeklong lockdown, the Indian government's 21-day lockdown has added to the uncertainty among the people regarding the adequate availability of daily necessities.
Citing COVID-19 fears, the government has enforced a week-long nationwide lockdown since Tuesday. The impact of lockdown is slowly emerging with people failing to fetch essentials that are mainly carried out by the private sectors. Despite the government's claim to ensure smooth supply of essentials during the lockdown, uncertainty mounts as the authorities fail to disseminate clear information among the concerned.
“While the authorities, on one hand, said supply would not be disrupted, the security officials forced both the people and retail stores to cease movement from early in the morning,” said Sarita Dahal, a resident of Baluwatar, Kathmandu.
During the lockdown, no one is allowed to go outside their residence except for emergency purposes, and to purchase medicines or food. Operation of all kinds of public and private vehicles are restricted except those used by security personnel or health workers. All domestic commercial flights remain suspended except for the ones fixed by the government or used by the security agencies, as per the government announcement.
Urmila KC, undersecretary of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, informed that the government has allowed grocery stores to open from 7 in the morning through noon while the departmental stores have been permitted to run throughout the day. However, the security officials restrict the movement of even those private vehicles that are supposed to be used for buying daily needs.
“It has come to the notice of the ministry that people are facing problems due to lack of coordination with Nepal Police. The ministry through today's meeting is expected to develop some mechanism to solve the problem,” said KC.
KC said that the Food Management and Trading Company currently has 26,000 tons of rice in stock while it is in the process of purchasing additional 100,000 tons of rice to ensure smooth supply in the future. Similarly, the Salt Trading Corporation has 7,500 tons of sugar in stock and it is in the process of purchasing additional 2,500 tons. Likewise, the country has 159,000 tons of salt, which officials said, will be sufficient to meet the demand for the next 10 months.
Issuing a press statement on Tuesday, the ministry has even stated that the Food Management and Trading Company and Salt Trading Corporation Limited will be using mobile vans to sell the edibles if necessary. But the ministry officials themselves do not have the answer about when and how the mobile vans will start providing service to the people.
Narendra Maharjan, a shopkeeper in Lazimpat, said that, he has not received additional essentials since Tuesday. “The suppliers informed that they were unable to operate their vehicles due to unclear rules,” said Maharjan, adding that he had faced difficulties in selling vegetables as most of the vegetable markets run only for a few hours early in the morning.
Similar dilemma is there regarding the availability of petroleum products including cooking gas, the supply of which is expected to be affected by the India's three-week lockdown announced Tuesday. According to the Nepal Oil Corporation, 100 gas bullets received loads from refineries in India on Tuesday while 35 of them entered the country from the Birgunj Customs alone.
Amid mounting uncertainty, the corporation since Wednesday has asked gas depots to provide only a cylinder of cooking gas to a family per month. The public enterprise has directed the depots to record the details of households that purchase cooking gas. Likewise, the enterprise said that, it will be making the gas companies to maintain at least 50% of their storage capacity.
According to the ministry, during the lockdown period, it is coordinating with the District Administrative Offices of the districts concerned to operate fuel stations on needs basis. Lilendra Prasad Pradhan, president of Nepal Petroleum Dealers' Association, said the fuel stations at the request of the government, are making necessary arrangements to provide petrol and diesel only to the essential services defined by the government.