KATHMANDU, Feb 22: The agitating petroleum tanker operators should be jailed as they have been disrupting the supply of essential products, Supplies Secretary Prem Kumar Rai told the parliamentarians on Wednesday.
Taking part in the discussion on supply of petroleum products in the parliamentary committee on cosnumer rights, he said that the ministry -- as a regulator -- cannot remain a mute spectator as the tanker operators have been disrupting the petroleum supplies since a couple of days, which has create shortage of the fuel in the Kathmandu Valley. "Halting supply of essential products like petroleum product is a serious crime and the state should initiate stringent action against such people."
Due to the deliberate disruption in supply of petroleum products by petroleum tanker operators, the Kathmanduites are seen in a long queue at petrol pumps across the Valley.
Demanding the Petroleum Products Transportation Bylaw amendment by the NOC, the agitating tanker operators close to GEFONT had completely halted supply of petroleum products from Friday by not loading fuel from Indian oil refineries. They had submitted a 15-point demand -- including the amendment of the byalaw -- to the government or else they had even threatened to completely halt supply from Monday.
The amended bylaw requires operators to maintain a minimum fleet size of five tankers, and pay the fine if the quantity of the petroleum products is less than prescribed in the the amended Petroleum Products Transportation Bylaw. Earlier 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 the tanker has more than 0.25 percent less peroleum product in the tanker, which means the tanker operators have to pay fine if the tanker has more than 30 litres less petroleum products.
According to the National Consumers Forum, each tanker have been transportating 235 litre less petroleum products in recent years. The Forum blames the tanker operators for stealing the fuel and selling since long. "Most of the tanker drivers, who have become tanker operators themselves, have been stealing and selling the petroleum products," the Forum claimed, asking the government to take stern action against them.
The tanker operators have been on the other hand asking the NOC not to implement the bylaw, the Forum said, decifering the tanker operators demand as to 'let them steal but not take action against them.'
The Forum has presented the Supplies Minister Deepak Bohara a memorandum on Wednesday asking the ministry to immediately take action against the agitatting taner operators. The Forum has asked the minister to cancel their tanker permit, if they doe not abide by the law and continue disruption.
Due to the supply disruption and also the Tarai-Madhesh protest, the demand for petroleum products has increased substantially. The demand has not subsided despite the NOC's pumping double the quantity of petrol and diesel -- from Tuesday -- that it supplies regularly in the market also due to hoarding of the people due to fear of acute shortage like last year.
The NOC has doubled the supply of petrol to 800 kilolitres per day against normal demand of 450 kilolitres since Sunday, according to the NOC. "NOC has also increased supply of diesel."
According to Khageswor Bohara, president of Nepal Petroleum Transporters Federation, the tanker operators close to the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT) have only disrupted the supply, whereas remaining others have been ferrying the petroleum products.
There are around 1,800 petroleum tankers operating in the country. Of the total some 800 tankers are individually owned and they are staging a protest citing that they cannot increase their fleet of tankers as required by the amended bylaw.