Shortage of LPG stations in CBD puts auto drivers, commuters to hardship

Shortage of LPG stations in CBD puts  auto drivers, commuters to hardship

 Scores of autorickshaw drivers in the City are facing hardships because of a shortage of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) fuel stations, particularly in the Central Business District. This, in turn, is affecting commuters. 

On many occasions, passengers have been forced to pay extra as hapless drivers take deviations to find LPG stations. 

According to Amaranarayana K, Commissioner for Transport and Road Safety, there are only 84 LPG stations in Bangalore to cater to an estimated 1.40 lakh autorickshaws, all of which are powered by LPG units. “There is no shortage of fuel stations on the outskirts, but this is a problem in the Central Business District where space to set up LPG stations is limited.”

According to regulations, LPG stations are required to be set up in a space of no less than 60 x 60 feet. But costs are another problem. G Ramesh, head of the Bangalore division, Indian Oil Corporation, said, “The cost of setting up a fuel station comes to around Rs one crore. The fact that the CBD is the most congested area of Bangalore – where land comes at a premium – has made the process of finding enough space and getting permission to set up LPG stations extremely difficult.”

This paucity of stations has made life difficult for autorickshaw drivers. According to one driver, M Mohammed, drivers frequently inform their passengers whenever they run short of fuel and that they will have to take a diversion to a station. “Sometimes, the passengers agree, but many times they complain,” he said. “They even shout at us. But we’re helpless as there are not enough stations in Bangalore.”

When asked why autorickshaw drivers do not top up their gas tanks at the start of the day, another driver, N Ramesh from Banashanakari 3rd Stage, said they cannot afford to do so as many drivers are poor and are dependent on the day’s earning. 

“Often, they do not have enough money to get the fuel tank fully loaded when they start in the morning. Only when we have enough fare can we afford to fuel our vehicles,” he said and added that commuters often do not understand the problem and accuse them of trying to make extra money by making detours.

Many commuters expressed frustration at the situation. Naintara K, who boarded an autorickshaw from MG Road to Sadashivanagar, recounted an incident when she had hailed an autorickshaw around 8 pm on MG Road. “The driver told me he will take Rs 30 extra,” she said. “When the auto reached Anil Kumble Circle, however, the driver claimed that he was low on fuel and had to make a detour to an LPG station. When I asked him to fill up later as it was getting late, he refused saying the auto would not reach Sadashivanagar. I had no option but to continue. The driver drove to St Mark’s Road for fuel. Consequently, I had to pay nearly double the meter fare.”

P Johnson, another commuter, suffered a similar fate. “I had to pay Rs 150 to travel from Commercial Street to Indiranagar. I managed to get an auto after some difficulty, and the driver left me stranded halfway saying there was no fuel. I was forced to pay him our previously agreed-upon fare. When I found another auto, he made a detour towards Fraser Town for fuel. This increased the meter fare and I had to pay extra because it was past 8 pm.”

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