In a move which may signal relief for lakhs of commuters, the petroleum ministry has criticised the decision of a section of petrol pump operators, mostly in South India, to keep outlets shut on Sundays, saying such a move will cause inconvenience to the general public.
Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal of not using fuel for a day to help cut India's import dependence, the ministry said it was aimed at conserving fuel and not for petrol pump owners to remain shut on Sundays.
On the issue of Modi's slogan, the ministry said, "The Prime Minister in #MannKiBaat appealed to People of India not to use fuel once a week and not to dealers to close their pumps on Sundays." "@PetroleumMin neither endorses nor approves of move by a small section of dealers to keep their petrol pumps closed on Sundays," the ministry said in a series of tweets.
Such closure, it said, "by a small section of dealers will lead to inconvenience for the general public". The tweets, which were retweeted by Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, also stated that major dealer associations are not participating in the closure.
"Major dealers' federations have clarified that they don't endorse any closure of petrol pumps on any day," a tweet went. From May 14, petrol pumps in eight states including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra will remain closed on Sundays.
The Consortium of India Petroleum Dealers (CIPD) took the decision keeping in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision to reduce fuel consumption, it has stated. Already, the All India Petroleum Dealers Association, which claims to represent 80 per cent of the 53,224 petrol pumps of public sector oil firms, has said it is not participating in the closure exercise.
Southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, parts of Karnataka - mostly around Bengaluru - and some areas of Maharashtra, especially Mumbai, may see petrol pump owners down their shutters on Sundays beginning May 14 to press for higher commission on petrol and diesel they sell.
All India Petroleum Dealers Association president Ajay Bansal said that the association, which has nearly 46,000 petrol pump owners as members, are not participating in the closure.
"Our members in 22 states are not going on any protests," he clarified, adding that the association has called a meeting of the general body in the next few weeks to discuss the agreement PSU oil companies had signed with it in November last year to consider their demand for raising fuel margins.