The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pumps dry, tankers adamant
Talks fail to pour oil on strike waters

Most petrol pumps in the city will run dry from Thursday, with tanker owners refusing to call off their strike.

The West Bengal Tankers Association has called the strike to protest the Centre's decision not to allow tankers above 15 years to ferry petroleum products.

Tanker operators have stopped lifting oil from Mourigram, Budge Budge and other terminals, affecting refilling at petrol pumps in and around the city from Wednesday.

West Bengal Petroleum Dealers Association secretary Joydeb Sarkar said with the pumps not receiving supplies from tankers from Monday, stocks were almost exhausted.

'At least 75 per cent of pumps in the city have run dry and will not be able to function from Thursday if they are not refilled overnight,' he added.

Transport secretary Sumantra Chowdhury held talks on Wednesday with tanker owners and oil companies, but there was no solution in sight.

Hardly any headway was made during another meeting that food and supply minister Naren De held with representatives of oil companies.

'We will continue the strike until the oil companies withdraw the ban on old tankers. We have made it clear to the transport secretary and the oil companies that not a single tanker will lift petrol, diesel and kerosene till the ban is not withdrawn,' said association secretary Ajit Das.

'We know the common people will face considerable hardship if the strike continues, but we are helpless, as our survival depends on a solution acceptable to us,' added Das.

The state government has made it clear that it is for the Centre and the oil firms to find a solution. 'I have told tanker owners that we cannot go against the Centre's directive,' said transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, adding that his officials would hold another round of talks on Thursday.

Oil companies, too, expressed their inability to intervene. 'The norms are applicable to oil tankers throughout the country. Tanker owners in all other states have accepted these norms. The tanker owners in West Bengal are the only ones creating trouble,' said general manager of Indian Oil Corporation Gautam Dutta.

'How can we change an all-India norm to suit the convenience of oil tankers in a particular state' Let the tanker owners move the Centre to meet their demands,' he added.

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