Guwahati: With LPG cylinder carriers on an indefinite strike in Assam, Indian Oil Corporation on Thursday said it is considering supplying 5 kg cylinders to distributors for sale at the gates of its bottling plants.
The North East Packed LPG Transporter Association (NEPLTA) began an indefinite strike from September 9 with several demands regarding the latest tender floated by the PSU giant. NEPLTA operates around 3,000 trucks to transport LPG cylinders from IOC's six plants at North Guwahati, Sarpara, Bongaigaon, Duliajan, Gopanari and Silchar to various distributors across Assam.
"Due to the strike, stocks at distributor points have almost dried up. We are trying to handle the situation so that common people are not affected. We are now considering to give the 5 kg free trade LPG units to distributors, who will sell them at the plant gates," Indian Oil Corporation Chief General Manager (IndianOil-AOD) Uttiya Bhattacharyya told PTI here.
Because of the strike, loading and supplying of finished cylinders from the company's six bottling plants in Assam has fully stopped during the last five days, he added.
"Besides, we will make available these non-subsidised small cylinders at retail fuel stations. It will be slightly expensive, but our effort is that the kitchen should continue to run at homes," Bhattacharyya said.
When contacted, NEPLTA President Niranjan Mahanta said the union will continue with its protest unless their demands are met. "There has been no concrete effort from the IOC to solve the issues. We have three simple demands -- shift the tender process from Kolkata to Guwahati, hike the rates by 50 per cent from the existing contract and there should not be any priority given to the distributors," he added.
Countering the arguments given by the association, a senior IOC official looking after LPG business in Assam said the rates offered in the new tender process are at par with the existing rates.
"The period of contract has been increased to five years from three years at present. This will give more benefits like less amount of EMI and longer periodicity of business. On shifting of tender process, it is immaterial because this is a complete online system. No physical presence is needed at all," the official informed.
He also refuted NEPLTA's allegation that preference is given to distributors to enter into the transportation segment, saying that the LPG transporters can ferry cylinders from bottling plants to any distributor, whereas the distributor transport only a few cylinders required for their consumers.
"The entire strike is to prevent entry of new blood into the business. These existing people want the nomination system so that only they can reap the benefit from IOC. We want new blood and that is why we have introduced this transparent online tender process," the senior official said.
The Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department Secretary held a meeting Wednesday with the senior officials of IOC to take stock of the situation and discussed the issues raised by the association.
"Necessary instructions in this regard have been sent to DCs and SPs of Kamrup, Tinsukia, Cachar, Chirang and Dibrugarh with information to DGP, Assam, requesting them to take necessary action in order to ensure that the entry points/ gates to the LPG bottling plants under their respective jurisdiction are kept open, enabling smooth passage of the vehicles/employees/workers to the bottling plants," an official release had said last night.
Further, they were also requested to take appropriate steps for maintaining law and order and ensuring uninterrupted supply of LPG packed cylinders to the consumers, it added.
This was also taken up with Additional Chief Secretary (Home and Political) to ensure that picketers are not allowed to carry out blockade of the bottling plants and prevent distribution of LPG packed cylinders to the consumers....