POL Products Distribution Mechanism In A Clutter
Petroleum products are an essential commodity. Without these products, our life will go haywire. From the kitchen to the transportation sector, petroleum products hold high significance. In view of the importance of such commodities, their purchase, sale and distribution have been taken over by the government itself. In line with this policy, the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has been assigned the responsibility for POL management in the country.
Despite such significance, it leaves much to be desired when it comes to the management of POL products. Shortages of POL products in the market are not an infrequent phenomenon. Even for minor reasons, people have to face POL shortages through no fault of theirs. A blockage of the roads due to landslides, repairs or cleaning of fuel tanks across the border or strikes by tankers or petroleum entrepreneurs are more than enough to create shortages of POL products in the country. It is surprising that even non-supply of POL from India for a single day may give rise to a shortage of POL products in the country.
Bureaucratic Red Tape.
This time the NOC has argued that supply from Raxaul has stopped as the fuel tanks there are being cleaned, thus leading to a shortage of POL products in the market. On the other hand, the roofing floor of one of the fuel tanks at the Thankot Depot has been damaged. As per the NOC sources, mechanics skilled in such repairs are not available in the country; they have to be sent in from abroad. But the process for sending in such mechanics seems to be tediously long. It has been urgent for the tank to be repaired, but the NOC people are still entangled in the bureaucratic red tape.
The NOC does not seem sensitive to the woes of the people. If it happens to be long public holidays, there will be a shortage of POL products in the market as the NOC does not usually distribute POL products on public holidays.
The people suffered a lot during the Indian blockade last year. At that time, the NOC did not make any effort to smoothen the supply situation in the country. Rather, it, with support from the government, colluded with the black marketeers to aggravate the already worse situation. At that time, there was talk about increasing the storage capacity of the NOC to last up to three months to improve the supply situation.
With the end of the Indian blockade and the Madhes agitation, the proposition of increasing the storage capacity of POL products also ended. Now the same problem has gripped the country. But neither the government nor the NOC has shown any alacrity in improving the supply situation.
The main problem thus lies with the storage capacity of the NOC. Over six months have elapsed since the Indian blockade and the Madhes agitation came to an end. In this intervening period, the NOC has not taken any initiative in increasing its storage capacity of fuel.
The consumption of POL products is increasing day by day as the number of vehicles is rising constantly and the sign of load-shedding coming to an end is nowhere to be seen. To make the distribution of fuel efficient and effective, the storage capacity of fuel should be increased by constructing storage tanks in various parts of the country. Khaireni (Tanahun), Battar (Nuwakot) and Panchkhal (Kavre) have already been identified as feasible places. But it is deplorable to note than even a feasibility study has not been conducted so far. If the storage capacity can be improved to last at least three months, the supply of fuel will not get disrupted so frequently.
Diversification of the trade in POL products will also contribute a lot to bettering the distribution mechanism of fuel. To this end, the country has also made a treaty with China. But the import of POL products from China will not take place any time soon. Further, it is more difficult geographically for the country to import POL products from China than from India. The current road network does not support the smooth import of POL products from China. For this to happen, the government needs to develop road infrastructure. But it has not shown any interest in improving the road network since the landmark treaty was signed with China.
A shortage of POL products is a recurring problem for the people due to the apathy of the government and the NOC towards the proper management of POL products. It is high time that the NOC took effective measures to solve the problem forever. For this, construction of fuel tanks needs to be accelerated at various feasible parts of the country. Likewise, the road network needs to be upgraded to enable the smooth conveyance of POL products from China to the country. The government should also prioritise the smooth supply of POL products in the market.
A responsible government always takes the woes of its people as its own. The POL shortage has been a headache for the people for years. The apathy of the government and the NOC towards improving the supply of POL products has irked the people beyond measure. The current budget has also provided for increasing the present fuel storage capacity of 72,000 KL to 415,000 KL. Besides, the anomalies seen in the management of the NOC also need to be sorted out in short order. After all, it is the duty of the government to provide relief to the people by improving the supply situation in the country.