The strike called by petrol pump owners on Monday in protest against the crackdown on fuel theft was called off today after holding talks with the district administration where the government reportedly threatened to take control of the fuel stations that were shut in protest.
The fuel pump owners had shut shop on Monday after the Uttar Pradesh special task force (STF) mounted raids across the state to catch those cheating customers with devices that would dispense less fuel than displayed.
The strike was later called off after the Lucknow district administration officials assured the petrol pump owners in a meeting that those running their business honestly should not be afraid of any action.
Several petrol pumps in Uttar Pradesh had been caught by STF sleuths using electronic chips and remote controls to dispense a lower quantity of petrol and diesel to consumers.
"The petrol pumps in the state capital went on strike late last night. Due to fear of STF action, their staff had run away and they had no option but to go on strike," an official of the association said.
"We assured petrol pump owners that they should not be afraid of any action if they are running their business honestly. They have called off their strike," Additional District Magistrate (Civil Supplies) Alka Verma told PTI after the meeting.
A delegation of petrol pump owners later met Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma to explain their position.
One petrol pump ‘disappears’ fearing crackdown
A number of petrol pumps, including one owned by UP Petrol Pump Dealers' Association President B N Shukla, had been sealed here after they were caught cheating consumers.
There was even a petrol pump in the capital which had ‘disappeared’ overnight fearing action by the STF.
The owner of the petrol pump feared that the station would be raided by the STF. Fearing action, the owner dislodged all the machines and them in a storage vault. When the STF team arrived at the petrol pump they saw a board saying – “Under Renovation” and no fuel dispensing machines.
Owners seek amnesty for erring petrol pumps
According to a report by the Hindustan Times, Lucknow Petroleum Products Dealers Association had sought a sort of “amnesty” period for cheating operators to come clean, “having realised their mistake”.
“Dealers are not on strike but the staff at petrol pumps are feeling scared to work. We are in a fix because of that, and if employees don’t turn up fearing action from STF (special task force), then it would be difficult for us to run the petrol pumps”, the association’s secretary Sudhir Bora told the newspaper on Monday.
“The dealers have met the chief minister and other officials, including the chief secretary, on Monday to plead for amnesty scheme as many of the petrol pumps may be affected... everybody wants to get rid of this as soon as possible”, Bora said.
Won't bow down to pressure, says govt
The government today warned petrol pump owners of strict action if they continued to strike for “an irrelevant cause”.
The sudden strike caused inconvenience to the people, who were seen lining up outside company-owned outlets, which were open.
"The Yogi Adityanath government will not come under any pressure. The police action is justified and it was in favour of consumers," Cabinet minister Suresh Kumar Khanna said.
His Cabinet colleague Siddharth Nath Singh described the problem as temporary and said the government would not "bow down to any pressure".
He also blamed the previous SP government for not taking adequate steps to check the menace.
Modus operandi of petrol pumps
The STF had initiated the crackdown on April 27 night when it raided seven petrol pumps.
According to the force, they were tipped off that an electronic chip was being installed at the petrol pumps helping them get a profit worth lakhs of rupees per month.
The chip, costing around Rs 3,000, reduced the output by nearly five to 10 per cent. It is attached with a wire which is linked with a remote control.
The remote control sets the limit and if a customer purchases one litre petrol, he actually gets 940 ml or less.
On an average, the petrol-pumps using this device were earning an undue profit Rs 14 lakh per month, according to the STF.
Centre orders inspection of all petrol pumps in UP
Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had yesterday ordered inspection of all petrol pumps in Uttar Pradesh and random checks elsewhere to detect short-selling of petrol and diesel by tampering with the system in dispensing units.
Pradhan had said though the responsibility of right quantity of product dispensed lies with state governments as their weights and measures department installs seals on dispensing units, two officials of state-owned fuel retailers have been suspended following the raids.
Oil marketing company representatives will accompany the UP police STF and officials of the state's weights and measures department, the food and civil supply department for inspection of all petrol pumps in Uttar Pradesh, he said.