Cooking gas distributors of all three public sector oil marketing companies are all set to go on an indefinite nationwide strike from Tuesday to press for withdrawal of marketing discipline guidelines 2014 (MDG), which stipulates imposition of heavy financial penalties on them.
The MDG, introduced by the companies after getting the petroleum ministry’s nod, talks of imposing hefty fine of 25 per cent of a distributor’s monthly commission even on “flimsy grounds”.
Apart from withdrawal of the MDG, the distributors, under the Bihar LPG Distributors Association (BLDA) banner, have also demanded tamper-proof seal on cylinders, stop small cylinder sale, withdrawal of multiple pricing system, introduction of foolproof delivery system among others. “All the 300 distributors of three companies in the state would go on an indefinite strike from Tuesday (February 25). Distributors would go on strike as part of a nationwide agitation to press for their main demand of withdrawal of the MDG,” the association’s general secretary, Ram Naresh Sinha, said.
Sinha said the association was demanding withdrawal of the “draconian provisions” of the MDG, which talks about imposition of heavy penalties of 25 per cent of the distributor’s monthly commission on several grounds like absence of uniform for vendors, lack of fresh paint on rickshaw, delay in delivery of cylinder for more than 48 hours among others.
Distributors were upset with the proposed imposition of heavy penalty of 50 per cent of the monthly commission on charges of black marketing and any minor discrepancy in the documents (of distributors), he said, adding that the quantum of fine used to be quite less, between Rs 10,000 and Rs 20,000, earlier. But now it has been quantified in percentage terms, which become much heftier.
Sinha said the strike was to be held in January but was postponed to February in view of talks with the company officials. “Three rounds of talks were held between the executive directors of the companies but to no avail. People should go for alternative source such as induction heater, microwave oven among others to cook foods,” he suggested.
However, the indefinite strike would affect households that use LPG as only source of fuel for cooking, as home delivery of the cylinder would be stopped. This may further fuel black marketing of the LPG cylinders. People, especially women, expressed concern over the indefinite strike saying that if it continues longer, then it would not only affect their lifestyle but also their kitchen budget. “The strike would have a huge impact on every household as the issue of cooking gas concerns everyone. The strike would only fuel black-marketing of the LPG cylinders. It would also affect our budget,” said Madhu Srivastava, a housewife.
“It would make our life difficult vis-à-vis preparation of food as we all have become accustomed to prepare foods on LPG stove. Everyone would be affected right from small to big families or hotels and restaurants. We would be forced to resort to alternative sources such as heater, electricity-run microwave to cook food. This would ultimately increase our energy bill thus increasing our household budget,” Rumjhum Mishra, a housewife, said.
About the problems to be faced by the consumers, association leader Sinha claimed that they (distributors) worked even on Monday, the day fixed for holiday for distributors, and supplied 1 lakh cylinders to the consumers across the state keeping in mind their benefit and interest. He, however, was quick to add that the association has decided to spare essential consumers like hospitals.
A distributor wishing anonymity, however, agreed that the impact of the strike would be felt only when if it prolongs for a few days.