Supply Situation: Leaves Much To Be Desired : Uttam Maharjan
With the lifting of the blockade at the border points a few days ago, the people had grown eupeptic over the normalisation of the supply system. But it was not to be. Even Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s much-hyped India visit, taking place on the heels of the lifting of the border restrictions, could not work miracles in smoothing the supply of petroleum products.
The premier’s visit was acclaimed as highly successful by the government. But when it comes to the supply situation, the visit cannot be considered a success. There has been no improvement in the supply situation, and the people are still finding it heavy going to procure petroleum products.
Rampant black marketing
The black marketing of petroleum products and LP gas is still there. It is alleged that the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) is still nurturing the black marketeers at the expense of the common people. When the supply of petroleum products and LP gas comes back on track, it will be difficult for the black marketeers to sell their products at unconscionably high prices. This may be one of the reasons why the supply situation is as it was before the Madhes agitation and the blockade were in force.
The NOC claims that India has been supplying only 70 per cent of the total requirements for POL products to the country. It is reported that as the country has decided to import 33 per cent of POL products from China, India is miffed with the country. Experts claim that the country should not have made public the quota of imports from China. This faux pas has angered India beyond measure. That is why, India has been cutting back fuel supplies to the country.
The distribution system is still in a clutter. Motorists and motorcyclists have to queue up for hours to get fuel. Although fuel rationing has been removed in the hope that this will smoothen the supply, the situation has not improved a bit. Rather, the people are compelled to spend their time on procuring petroleum products. On the other hand, LP gas has become a rara avis; it cannot be found in the market. Even the NOC says that it will take at least three months for the gas to be easily available in the market.
The distribution system has gone haywire since the unpleasant situation arose in September 2015. As the situation worsened, unscrupulous businessmen and black marketeers took advantage of the volatile situation. If the government had had the will, the distribution system could have been in place, mitigating the sufferings of the people. But the NOC itself openly indulged in the black-marketing racket apparently in collusion with the government.
The people are now tired of the behaviour of the NOC. Suffering five or six months on the trot is not a small deal. Still it is not certain when the ordeal will come to an end. Even if there is neither the Madhes agitation nor the Indian blockade, there is no sign in sight that the situation will come back to normal any time soon. It is reported that the IOC is dilly-dallying in supplying as much fuel and LP gas as demanded by the NOC, citing the high command.
This shows that Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has diplomatically failed to convince India of the government position vis-à-vis the supply of fuel and LP gas. When he was in India, the people had pinned high hopes on the supply situation improving to the mutual benefit of both the countries. Even in the past when the fuel crisis was raging, it was claimed that the government had failed to take strong diplomatic initiatives towards convincing India as regards normalising the supply situation.
It has been proved beyond doubt that the country is excessively at the mercy of India. The country could not initiate trade with China during the crisis, although a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) had been signed with China. It is unfortunate that the country has not learnt any lesson from the Indian blockade.
The government has been extolled to the skies for its firm stance on nationalism. But nationalism alone will not alleviate the hardships the people have been suffering. It is very imperative for the country to attain self-sufficiency, given its geographical and topographical features. But the policy of the government seems to prioritise imports over domestic production. The higher the imports, the higher the revenue for the government.
Obsession with the revenues from imports may have made the government hesitant to go for the production of various commodities in the country. Further, importing is much easier than producing. The lackadaisical attitude of the government is largely to blame for the ever-widening gap between imports and exports.
Anyway, it is the duty of the government to take measures to mitigate the sufferings of the people. But the government does not seem to have taken any such measures, implying that the government has taken a devil-may-care policy. As such, the people have lost hope that the government will make adequate steps to mitigate the sufferings of the people by normalizing the supply situation. When the people will be able to pick up the pieces of their life is in the womb of time.