Traders fear move will lead to black-marketing

Petroleum & Natural Gas Minister M. Veerappa Moily has been caught on the back foot once again. This time on restricting the working hours of petrol pumps to save energy.

The Minister on Monday categorically said that no decision on shutting petrol pumps after 8 p.m. has been taken.

“This is not the Government’s proposal. There are various options and ideas that have been floating. Shutting petrol pumps during night is one of them…,” he was quoted as saying.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s office told Business Line that there should be a proposal in the first place for the Government to either consider or reject.

Petrol pump dealers wonder how restricting working hours of pumps would help.

“We will see pressure on retail outlets during the working hours. Instead of filling five litres, the customer will fill 10 litres. How does this suggestion help?”

Says Ajay Bansal, General Secretary, Federation of All India Petroleum Traders, “If such a proposal is being considered it will spell disaster for business. Most of the volume sales (40 per cent) happen in the evening. In fact, diesel sees maximum sales (80 per cent) in the evening. Such a proposal will create chaos and lead to panic buying.”

Traders fear that such a move will encourage black-marketing.

Even the world of twitterati was buzzing. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw tweeted “Will Veerappa Moily’s call for shutting petrol stations at 8 p.m. really reduce consumption? NO. What about job losses because of this.”

“Government plan to fuel curfew will invite Black marketing. They should cut short their over expenditure to control economy,” said another.

Moily, who has been working on measures to reduce the forex outflow on crude oil imports, was quoted as saying shutting petrol pumps after 8 p.m. was one of the suggestions.

The Ministry is looking at reducing consumption of petroleum products in the country through conservation measures. It has worked out a campaign on fuel savings in the major cities which will last for six weeks starting this month. The cost is estimated to be Rs 17.5 crore. The special drive includes mass media campaigns, street plays, and drivers training programme.

The estimated savings through media campaign, as projected by Petroleum Conservation & Research Association for 2013-14 based on possible three per cent saving in consumption, is Rs 16,000 crore or $2.5 billion for petrol, diesel, and LPG alone, Moily said.

(This article was published on September 2, 2013)
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