Minister ‘unaware’ of hoarding, artificial scarcity of diesel

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Proof of shortage: A ‘no stock’ board put up at a diesel outlet in Bangalore on Wednesday.
Proof of shortage: A ‘no stock’ board put up at a diesel outlet in Bangalore on Wednesday.

Anil Kumar Sastry

Halappa says the problem was ‘not brought to our notice’

‘Scarcity’ in spite of PSU oil companies doubling supply of diesel over the last one week

Many outlets have gone dry, strongly suggesting hoarding of fuel and black marketing

BANGALORE: When Shankar, a taxi driver from Bangalore, took on a fare to Davangere, he did not top up the tank as he assumed he could fill up en route.

However, he did not get a single drop of diesel on the entire National Highway 4-stretch till Bharamasagara in Chitradurga district on Wednesday.

He turned into Bharamasagara town and drove into a petrol outlet only to find it closed.

Oddly, an attendant directed him to a nearby shop where Mr. Shankar purchased 25 litres of diesel at Rs. 60 a litre.

This “scarcity” is despite public sector oil companies more than doubling the supply of diesel over the last one week. Indian Oil Corporation alone transported 3,020 kl diesel from its Devanagondi terminal (catering to Bangalore and surrounding districts) for retail outlets, as against 1,321 kl on July 24, 2007.

As much as 1,800 kl diesel was for Bangalore alone as against 633 kl for the same period last year.

Bharat Petroleum increased supply of diesel from Devanagondi terminal by 40 per cent on Wednesday with 1,056 kl as against 700 kl lifted on July 24, 2007.

In spite of all these measures, hundreds of vehicles have been lining up in front of retail outlets across the State. Many outlets have gone dry, strongly suggesting hoarding of fuel and its black marketing.

Government mum

Despite the grave shortage of diesel and the evident hoarding that has created the artificial scarcity, the Government is yet to wake up to reality.

Food and Civil Supplies Minister H. Halappa told The Hindu that the issue of hoarding has “not been brought to our notice”. He attributed the scarcity to panic buying and inadequate supply of fuel by oil companies.

The Government has asked the oil companies to maintain adequate supply of diesel in the State, besides writing to the Centre to ensure proper delivery.

When his attention was drawn towards diesel shortage despite the enhanced supply by oil companies, and whether it suggested hoarding, Mr. Halappa said: “it [hoarding] could be possible.”

Asked what action the Government proposed against hoarders, the Minister said he would immediately direct officials of his department and the police to take strict action against hoarders. Industries would be asked to declare their stock or else strict action would be taken, he added.

Procuring power

Mr. Halappa said the power crisis in the State is likely to be resolved within a day or two, thereby reducing the demand for diesel. He said efforts were on by the Government to procure power from elsewhere at whatever cost, to ride the crisis.

‘Panic buying’

Principal Secretary to the Department K.M. Shiva Kumar, reiterated that the problem was due to panic buying and advised the public to desist from it. “Once the monsoon becomes active, the power crisis will ease, thereby reducing demand for diesel,” he said.

Incidentally, the Government has announced hefty power cuts till August end.

He added that the oil companies have been directed to move as much diesel as possible into the retail market. Having resorted to drastic cutbacks in power supply, the State Government has apparently not addressed the issue of hoarding that has resulted in panic buying of diesel in the city and its surroundings.

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