Owners are hesitant fearing punitive action from oil marketing companies

Buses of the State Transport Corporation, Kumbakonam Division, have started queuing up at the retail fuel outlets in the central districts since Saturday following the steep hike of Rs.11.50 a litre for bulk consumers.

However, the move has met with limited success as the corporation in Tiruchi region, which caters to Tiruchi, Karur, Ariyalur and Perambalur districts, was able to meet only about 30 to 40 per cent of its fuel requirement as many retail outlets were reluctant to extend credit. Owners of some fuel stations were also hesitant, fearing punitive action from oil marketing companies.

Sources in the TNSTC, Tiruchi region, told The Hindu that buses are being sent to retail fuel outlets, where the fuel is available at subsidised rates, to tank up in the city and other parts of the region as far as possible. Tiruchi Region of the TNSTC has a fleet of 1,300 buses and their daily fuel requirement is about 1.20 lakh litres.

But not all retail fuel outlets, which operate on cash-and-carry basis, are ready to supply diesel to the government buses on credit.

“We started sending our buses to retail fuel outlets since Saturday following oral instructions from our higher-ups. But only a few outlets are ready to supply diesel to us as we are seeking a credit for a week or so.

So far we are able to meet only 30 to 40 per cent of our requirement a day. Even those who are willing to supply diesel on credit are providing only a portion of their supplies. Nevertheless, we are talking to some more retail outlets asking them to supply on credit,” said a senior official of the TNSTC, Tiruchi region, on condition of anonymity.

TNSTC officials say owners of many retail outlets, especially those in the rural areas such as Manapparai and Thuvarankurichi, are not willing to supply diesel to the buses fearing reprisal from the oil marketing companies. They even fear that the oil marketing companies could object to the supply of diesel to a bulk consumer and cancel their licence, officials said. Besides, the buses can go for fuelling only in retail outlets which have adequate space for the vehicles to manoeuvre.

However, sources said the corporation had reserve stock of fuel for a couple of days to ensure that they did not run dry entirely.

The move to fill up from retail outlets was only intended to reduce the off-take of diesel in bulk as it entails a huge increase in operational cost.

Asked how long they could sustain the move, officials said they were hopeful that Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s letter to the Prime Minister seeking the withdrawal of the dual pricing system would produce the desired results in the next few days.

Buses operated by the Pudukottai division of the TNSTC made a beeline to private pumps on Sunday.

According to estimates, about 36 kilo litres of diesel is being consumed by the 400-odd buses of the TNSTC in the district. The Pudukottai division records savings of about Rs.3.50 lakh daily through the move, sources said.