Petrol home delivery harebrained scheme

Petrol home delivery harebrained scheme
The Modi government’s previous attempt at starting home delivery of petrol and diesel failed before it could even take-off, but petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan appears confident that this time would be different. Speaking at the India Mobile Congress in New Delhi recently, he said the government would soon leverage advancements in the telecom and IT sectors to start home delivery of fuel and customers could order it online. If the minister’s recent tweets are any indication, the move is in advanced stages and the government plans to put all petroleum products on e-commerce platforms soon. The idea was mooted by Pradhan earlier this year and a Bengaluru-based firm had even started home delivery, but had to close the business after the Petroleum and Safety Organisation (PESO) red-flagged it, terming it illegal.

The minister has not dwelt on innovations that would now allow this scheme to be functional beyond claiming that the “Telecom revolution has instilled confidence that free markets supported by right policies always serves the interest of consumers.” The problem being solved is said to be “long queues at fuel stations”, but the minister’s new-found zeal seems to have been spurred by the Modi government’s post-demonetisation online mania. The idea of petroleum products being supplied at homes, like newspapers, milk and groceries, might be tempting, but it overlooks the fact that this is highly combustible stuff. The petroleum ministry itself has stringent rules on loading and unloading, refuelling, and transportation of fuel. The regulations cover everything from who is allowed to transport the fuel, how, to whom, how much, and using what means. Even if the telecom revolution can address these issues, in a country where traffic laws are non-existent for most drivers, an accident involving fuel supply vehicles within city limits could have disastrous consequences.

Online home supply of petroleum products in India can also create a monumental challenge to India’s security forces. As it is, terror cells, insurgent outfits, Maoist groups and criminal syndicates of various hues seem to have easy access to arms, ammunition and explosives. Free home delivery of petrol and diesel has the potential to result in a mushrooming of ‘Molotov cocktail’ factories across the country. The government’s move towards digitalisation of the economy is laudable and online transactions need to be encouraged. But the proposal for online sale of petrol and diesel is the most harebrained scheme thought of and being touted as an innovation. It is not only impractical and dangerous to the common man on the street, it can pose a threat to national security. Instead of petrol and diesel, government would do better to home-deliver food, medicines and essential commodities.
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