Chennai’s petrol pumps in a mess

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Chennai’s petrol pumps are in a mess. The problem that started with the shortage of diesel owing to partial shutdown of one of the key refineries in the South has now spilled over to petrol ever since the price hike on May 23.

While the dealers have been mostly accused of cheating on quantity and adulteration, Wednesday’s event saw consumers vent their ire regarding hoarding.

Soon after the announcement about the hike that saw petrol pumps drying up quickly, some irate customers even beat up a few dealers.

“We are the last link in the oil chain from companies to consumers. And hence we get flayed for anything and everything,” complained Mr M. Kannan, president of TN Petroleum Dealers Association.

There was a genuine problem with supplies on that day but dealers were hauled up for no reason, he added.

Most petrol pump owners had to ask for police protection to disperse the angry mobs. Chennai has about 300 fuel stations in the city.

Fuel supplies have been hit ever since a problem started in the Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited (MRPL).

The refinery of Hindustan Petroleum had an arrangement with Chennai-based Indian Oil Corporation to cater to its outlets in Karnataka while HP outlets in Chennai were serviced by IOC.

But the MRPL refinery’s closure on April 23 saw HP cutting supplies to IOC outlets in Karnataka, which in turn resulted in IOC returning the same gesture to HP outlets in the city. “This was the start of the problem,” explained a senior official of an oil company.

Also, Metros bore the brunt of the shortage as they use Euro-IV compliant fuel while rural areas use Euro-III fuel. “While oil companies managed to import Euro-III that saw the problem ease a bit in non-metro areas, Euro-IV fuel still remains an issue,” he said.

Supplies are still irregular and hence the problem has become acute, said Mr Murugavel, a petrol bunk owner in Thiruvanmayur. “While the OMCs are holding back supplies, it is the dealers like us who are facing the customers’ ire,” he added.

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