Jorhat, Sept. 7: Altogether 174 petrol pumps — affiliated to the North East Petroleum Dealers’ Association (Upper Assam chapter) — will go on a 24-hour strike in five districts on September 10 to protest the sealing of a depot in Sivasagar.
On September 1, Sivasagar deputy commissioner Jatindra Lahkar issued orders to the seal the depot after Assembly Speaker Pranab Gogoi’s office brought allegations of fuel adulteration against it. The order was carried out by the district administration on September 4.
The petroleum dealers’ association termed the closure illegal because the chemical test report was still awaited and the depot owner had moved Gauhati High Court on Monday.
The president of the association, Samiran Bordoloi, said their campaign against the closure had already begun: yesterday, all fuel depots in Sivasagar district were closed for 12 hours.
Bordoloi said the closure order — which was passed under Clause 25 of the Assam Trade Articles (Licensing and Control) Order 1982 — was illegal because the law has no provisions to close a petrol pump without a test report by the forensic science laboratory.
The rules of the Union petroleum and natural gas ministry also state that the sample test report must confirm adulteration before shutting down, he said.
Bordoloi said there had been a similar incident in Jorhat last year.
The Jorhat district administration closed a fuel depot on the basis of complaint by a customer before getting the test report of the sample from the State Forensic Science Laboratory. The test report came back negative and although the station was reopened, the reputation of the outlet was affected and it incurred financial losses.
The secretary of the association, Bijoy Singh Sarda, who also represents Lahoty Brothers Private Limited, said the Sivasagar district administration did not give the depot any notice before the closure. A copy of the complaint was also not given.
Sarda said the district administration had charged that officials found stock variations during inspection.
If the depot is not reopened by Sunday, then all fuel outlets in Upper Assam will be shut on Monday. “We (Lahoty Brothers) will also move Gauhati High Court against the closure,” Sarda said.
Denying the allegation of the petroleum body, Lahkar told The Telegraph that the depot had been “closed temporarily as a preventive step in public interest”. He said the complaint against the depot stated that the car of the Speaker had developed mechanical defects after refilling from the depot. “I am pursuing the matter with the forensic science laboratory to conduct the test on the sample at the earliest and dispatch it.”