Single-shift operations at Maharashtra petrol stations

 Toughening their stance on enhanced commission, petrol dealers all over Mumbai and Maharashtra have resorted to a single shift 9-5 operation, jolting lakhs of vehicle owners.

The immediate impact of the  move was seen in the form of long, winding queues of vehicles and angry drivers during the morning peak hour Monday at most petrol pumps in the city and suburbs.

"We shall work in a single shift, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at least till the government implements its own commitment regarding our commission hikes, keeping in view the huge inputs cost," Federation of All Maharashtra Petrol Dealers Association (FAMPEDA) president A.S. Dikshit told IANS.

The work-to-shift agitation, launched Monday morning, saw the participation of nearly 80 percent of the 290 petrol pumps in the city, and almost complete response of the 3,700 petrol pumps elsewhere in the state, he said.

"This is a better option than resorting to a total strike and making the state totally fuel-starved. Unless the government adheres to its commitment of giving us increased commission, we shall run in a single shift," Dikshit warned.

"The costs of all inputs have gone up multi-fold over the past couple of years, by the commission given to petrol stations has remained static, with no signs of positive developments," rued Vikram Pal, owner of Vikram Auto Services, a petrol station in Versova, Andheri suburb in north-west Mumbai.

Justifying the rationale behind the unprecedented single-shift operation, Dikshit said that on an average, each petrol pump has around 25 staffers in various categories for each shift.

Besides, there are huge electricity bills to be taken care of, plus costs of maintenance of the petrol storage and other facilities at the petrol stations.

"Presently, on an average petrol price (to the consumer) of Rs.78 per litre in Mumbai, or Rs.74 in Pune, or lesser in some smaller cities, the commission is a standard Rs.1.49 per litre. Similarly, for diesel, presently selling at Rs.54 in Mumbai, the commission is a fixed Rs.92 paise per litre all over the country," Dikshit explained.

The last hike in commission was effected in June 2011 when the government permitted an approximate 23 paise per litre hike, but assured of a review every six months.

"We are overdue of four promised reviews, but nothing has moved forward, hence we are constrained to work in a single-shift operation to reduce our costs," Pal said.

He apprehends that virtually reducing availability of fuel services by 16 hours daily, it could lead to increased pressure and overcrowding at petrol stations during the day.

However, the night time vehicular movement may also decrease sharply, including public transport like auto-rickshaws and taxis, due to the fear of getting stranded without fuel.

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