GUWAHATI, July 25: The North East Packed LPG Transporters’ Association (NEPLTA) on Monday started its indefinite strike opposing the Indian Oil Corporation’s recent controversial tender. As a result, thousands of LPG carriers lined up in queue at the bottling plants of Bongaigaon, Mirza, Ghopadhari, Tinsukia, North Guwahati, Silchar, Dhuliajan, Dimapur and Bongaigaon. As such, unprecedented shortage of LPG cylinders is likely across northeast, including Assam.
Notably, the transporters’ association decided to stage a protest after a series of discussions failed with the public sector enterprise.
Appealing to the people of the state to understand the cause of the strike, NEPLTA president Niranjan Mahanta said, “The association’s strike may cause inconvenience to the households of the state. However, we are forced to stand against the IOC’s decision. It cancelled the previous tender for carrying LPG cylinders as per direction of the Union Petroleum Ministry. Accordingly, the IOC invited us at various places to find out ways to remove suspicion in the minds of existing transporters, though things remained unchanged.”
The contracts with the transporters were renewed in 2015 at the rates of the 2011 tender and all vehicles were still plying as per the seven-year-old tender, he claimed.
“The new tender asked us to file bids at even five per cent lower than the 2011 amount. How is that possible when inflation has soared like anything in the last 11 years?” Mahanta said.
He also said the company had assured of refunding the entire amount charged in toll gates across the northeast, and pay the sum deducted for calculating lower distance between two places, but nothing has been done so far.
“Last year, we had a discussion with the top officials of IOC in presence of the Union minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Rameshwar Teli. They had promised not to float a new tender until all our pending dues were cleared. However, a fresh tender has been floated and our dues are still pending,” Mahanta said.
He also alleged that as per a new clause in the tender, contracts will be signed with those bidders who offer a greater number of vehicles for transporting packed cylinders.
“This is just a ploy to deprive local transporters because we are small players with a limited number of trucks,” the NEPLTA chief said.
Considering all these factors, a resolution of non-cooperation has been passed at the NEPLTA executive meeting, and an indefinite strike called from Monday at all the bottling plants of IOC in the northeast, he said.
When contacted, IOC in a statement said: “We received a notice last Friday and have intimidated the Food & Supplies Department, Government of Assam. We have requested deputy commissioners and local police of respective districts for ensuring law and order so that distributor tank trucks (TTs) are not hindered from going inside plants.”
NEPLTA operates around 3,000 trucks to transport LPG cylinders from IOC’s bottling plants to various distributors across the northeast, Mahanta said.
Indian Oil-AOD, IOC’s northeast division, has an installed capacity to bottle 5.23 crore LPG cylinders every year at its nine operational plants. Capacity utilisation stood at 5.11 crore units. (With inputs from PTI)