Though it has been almost two weeks since the unofficial economic blockade by India was lifted and the daily supply of fuel from the southern neighbor is back to normal, most petrol pumps in Kathmandu Valley are still shuttered up.
As a result, consumers are not yet getting their fuel easily even though Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) had pledged to normalize the supply from Sunday. This is indicative of massive manipulation of supplies, according to consumers.
NOC officials claim to have distributed almost 400,000 liters of fuel in the Valley every day since Sunday. The quantities distributed over the last three or four days exceed the supply level before the blockade started. Prior to the supply crisis, the distribution of fuel was 350,000 liters daily.
NOC distributed diesel to 79 pumps and petrol to 73 pumps, or 80 percent of the petrol pumps in the Valley. However, many of the pumps have been turning back people queuing up with their vehicles to fill up.
Out of 10 petrol pumps that Republica visited on Wednesday, only four appeared to be distributing. Though most of the 10 pumps were listed by NOC as supplying the fuels, they were not actually doing so. Staff at the petrol pumps told Republica that they were running out of stock and there will be distribution only after the fuel arrives. “The inefficiency of Nepal Oil Corporation’s distribution mechanism is the main reason for the shortage of fuel despite the increase in supply,” said MadhavTimsina, president of Consumer Rights Investigation Forum (CRIF).
Many consumers attribute the shortage at the pumps to the deflection of fuel to the black market. “I went to a petrol pump day before yesterday to get fuel. After queuing for four hours, I was told that the pump had run out. I later bought three liters of petrol in black at Rs 130 per liter,” said Pukar Poudel, a lawyer. “With the black market prices coming down, I though the supply would have eased and returned to the pump. But, it seems the shortage still exists,” he added.
Consumer rights activist Timsina also says that NOC is hobnobbing with the black marketers. “Supply by NOC appears shady and the petrol pumps are also hoarding the fuel they receive,” he added.
However, NOC officials claim that the supply will return to normal in a day or two. “We have been increasing the supply gradually. The situation will be normal from next week,” said Mukunda Ghimire, a director at NOC.