But consumers are taking it in their stride and not resorting to panic booking, say distributors

 Friday was the fifth day of the strike by LPG cylinder lorry drivers at the Indane bottling plant in Manali.

Consumers seem to be taking it in their stride and are not resorting to panic booking. Thanks to the cap on the number of subsidised LPG cylinders for households, cooking gas distributors say there has been no sharp increase in refill bookings. In the past, customers would rush to book refills on hearing of such strikes, distributors say, adding the protest by the drivers, however, is certainly adding to the time taken to deliver cylinders.

The backlog, a distributor says, is around four days at Indane agencies fed by the Manali plant, while at others drawing supplies from Indane bottling facilities in Ennore and Chengalpattu, it is 2-3 days.

This backlog is not unmanageable in the backdrop of subdued consumer demand. Earlier, households used to order a refill even before they exhausted one as there was no limit on the number of cylinders supplied to them.

But with the nine-cylinders-a-year cap, they have become prudent about usage. Beyond the nine cylinders, they will be supplied a non-subsidised refill that, at prevailing rates, costs over Rs. 1,200 each.

In turn, this has also resulted in a scenario where the attempts to resolve such strikes are less intensive than those in the past.

“We need worry only when the backlog piles up,” says an official of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC). Sources in Tiruvallur district administration echo the same point, adding that the parties in question — IOC and the drivers — are yet to approach them.

On Friday, the lorry drivers and their family members held a protest outside Indian Oil Bhavan in Nungambakkam.

Some solution to resolve the strike, which is in support of a demand for more cylinder loads from the plant, is expected as truck owners and drivers are slated to meet on Saturday, says A. Devakar Selwyn, secretary, LPG Cylinder Transport Contractors Association.

Sources in IOC say the labour department too is likely to call for a meeting soon.

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