Cooking gas distributors of public sector oil companies are firm on going ahead with their indefinite strike from Tuesday, with a hope that Petroleum Ministry, which had changed its stance in recent weeks on certain issues concerning LPG, would also not allow matters to reach a head in their case.
Besides looking forward to all the LPG agencies closing down in protest, leaders of the trade also expect the cap on subsidised cylinders and automated booking system to pose challenges in the event of oil companies making alternative supply arrangements.
Though the All India LPG Distributors Federation and Federation of LPG Distributors of India have listed various demands, the key demand is withdrawal of new Marketing Discipline Guidelines that prescribe stringent actions and came into force a couple of days ago.
Describing certain provisions of the MDG 2014 as “unreasonable and harsh” and claiming that the guidelines could be used as a tool against them, the trade leaders said all the 900 distributors of Indane, Bharat Gas and HP Gas in Tamil Nadu would participate in the strike.
The plan is to not open the agencies and supply refills to households. On Sunday, a press meet was addressed by All India HP Gas Distributors Association general secretary P. Dakshinamurthy, Chennai Indane Distributors Association president Nalini, All India LPG Distributors Association (Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry) C.G. Krishnamurthy among others.
On the impact for consumers, the distributors, however, agreed that only if the strike prolongs would the impact be felt since many households have double bottle connections.
An imminent possibility is a rise in the backlog with the distributors resulting in more wait for consumers to get refills.
There is already an increase in the number of bookings after the Ministry increased the cap on subsidised cylinders from nine to 11 in the current fiscal, say distributors.
The oil companies, on their part, are expected to take stock of the evolving situation on Monday.
Apart from hoping that not all distributors take part in the strike, some of the companies expect the LPG agencies in the cooperative fold such as TUCS to pitch in if need be.
The idea is to make the cooperatives, which have agencies in major cities, supply on a cash and carry basis – customers need to pick up cylinders.
Sources say as the entire customer database is computerised and centralised it is possible with some level of challenge. Customers in cities where the refill booking is yet to be automated, however, would not be able to book.
In a communication to the distributors, All India LPG Distributors Federation general secretary Chandra Prakash said sale to commercial establishments and institutions offering emergency services like hospitals would continue during the strike.