A strike by drivers of lorries transporting LPG cylinders from and to an Indane bottling plant in Manali moved into the fourth day on Thursday, intensifying the possibility of delay in refill supplies for households ahead of Pongal.
While the backlog with distributors attached to Indian Oil Tanking Ltd (IOTL) plant is not alarming since loads are being diverted from other facilities, sources say such alternatives can be maintained only up to a point. A prolonged protest might start reflecting on supplies by distributors attached to bottling plants that make up the shortfall.
At the heart of the drivers’ strike is their demand for more loads. Sources among transporters said the drivers are paid a nominal monthly salary, of around Rs. 3, 000, while they get around Rs. 750 per load. Unless they get more loads their earnings suffer.
On the impact of such strikes, Indane sources say when the Manali plant does not work they fall back on the Ennore and Chengalpattu plants. Apart from cutting down on the number of loads supplied to distributors attached to those plants, additional loads available for other locations are also consumed. So the occurrence of a strike in Manali could mean the Salem plant meeting the demand in Vellore instead of the Chengalpattu plant, a source said.
But for Chennai, as distributors say, the backlog with distributors attached to IOTL is around 3-4 days, while for those with Ennore and Chengalpattu, it is two days.
If the strike continues, this could mean the wait-time shooting up for Indane households, including those supplied refills by plants that are functioning as usual.
Compounding the problem could be the number of holidays around Pongal. Much of the prevailing backlog is on account of delivery boys at many LPG agencies going on Sabarimala pilgrimage, a distributor said.