Truck drivers begin strike; longer wait for Indane cylinders likely

There could be more challenges ahead for several lakh households relying on Indane cylinder supplies, as drivers of trucks attached to the Ennore bottling plant of Indian Oil Corporation began a strike on Monday, demanding more wages.

Though protests such as these ahead of the festive season are not uncommon, this one comes at a time when households are mulling ways to manage with just three subsidised refills they are eligible to order till March 31.

With drivers, including those of trucks belonging to the distributors, not plying the vehicles, Indane agencies waited for supplies until late into the evening. “There were no loads from Ennore today,” Chennai area president of All India Indane Distributors’ Association A. Ramachandran said, adding that alternative transport arrangements were being made.

Such protests, if prolonged, could cripple the bottling operation as the trucks supplying loads, return with empty refills. Following the strike, IOC officials asked distributors to hire light commercial vehicles to transport the cylinders. Though the number of refills is lesser than the 300-odd cylinders that make up a load, it could help keep the plant running.

While Mr. Ramachandran said a skeleton supply was likely to reach some distributors by late night and more on Tuesday, LPG Consumers, Distributors and Employees Welfare Centre president K. Gurumurthy said the windshield of one of the LCVs was damaged in stone throwing. For the consumers, the strike could translate into a longer wait for refills, when upcoming festivals and weather conditions lead to more consumption. The backlog is over 15 days with some distributors, Mr. Gurumurthy said.

Distributors and oil company officials want the State government to intervene as the Ennore plant is crucial for maintaining supplies to over half of the 18 lakh Indane consumers in and around Chennai.

The plant despatches 130 loads daily or close to 40,000 cylinders. One more bottling plant in Manali is not operating to capacity as Chennai Petroleum Corporation Ltd refinery, which supplies liquefied petroleum gas, is on a maintenance shutdown.

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