Calcutta, May 19: The Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government, which has launched a move to phase out pre-1990 commercial vehicles from Calcutta Metropolitan Area, today began an exercise in augmenting LPG supply in the city so that these could switch over to the clean fuel to avoid the impending ban.
The state election commission today gave the government the go-ahead for phasing out pre-1990 commercial vehicles. 'As the state election commissioner has said the order would not violate the electoral code of conduct, we will issue one shortly,' said a department official.
Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty met representatives of Indian Oil Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum, Bharat Petroleum and IBP Ltd today and asked them to open more LPG outlets in and around Calcutta.
'The oil companies today committed to have 15 auto LPG dispensing stations functioning in and around Calcutta by December 2005. We have chosen five more sites at Calcutta State Transport Corporation depots around the city, where CSTC and oil companies can run LPG stations jointly. If we have 20 LPG outlets by December, it will be enough to cater to the converted taxis and autorickshaws,' said the transport secretary, Sumantra Chowdhury.
The companies, which were initially hesitant about opening more outlets, pointed out to the minister that the market was very poor. 'We told him that the six outlets functioning currently sell only about 60 tonnes every month,' said Dipankar Roy, IOC's chief divisional retail sales manager for Calcutta.
One outlet, which got a licence on Wednesday, is also ready to function.
The oil firms also pointed to the space constraints and asserted that more land is needed to open up new filling stations. The companies cited safety concerns to rule out mobile outlets and suggested that the government identify land for more stations.
'The transport secretary assured us that all old taxis would be converted to LPG and demand would go up. He said people were hesitant to change as they were apprehensive about supply. We then promised him that we would add another six outlets by September,' said another oil company representative present at the meeting.
IBP Ltd committed to opening two outlets, but said it needed until December for this as hardly any work had been done so far.
Five of CSTC's depots in the city, including those in Kasba, Manicktala and Taratala, will be used for joint ventures with the companies.
'They will contribute the land and get all the safety clearances, while the oil companies will supply the gas. It will be an investment with 50 per cent cost sharing. The minister has suggested that we make the investment and CSTC, which will operate the outlets as dealer, will pay us back from their commission,' said Roy of IOC.
CSTC will issue a formal offer letter to the companies in June, transport department officials said.