From our Special Correspondent
IMPHAL, July 17: Some petrol pumps in Manipur after a long time started selling petrol and diesel on Tuesday morning. However, each oil pump is selling petrol at Rs 700 to the four wheelers and only two litres is given to the two wheelers. This is against the announcement of Moirangthem Okendra, Minister of Conumer, Food and Public Distribution. Announcing lifting up of the blockade imposed by a Naga group on the vehicles of Manipur, the Minister said that there would be free sale of petrol.
This correspondent toured several oil pumps on Tuesday morning. There were long serpentine queues of cars and two wheelers near all oil pumps. The employees in the oil pumps sell the fuel at slow motion. The owners are not happy that they are given such a small quantity despite the fact that they have to be in the queue for some hours. They fail to understand why the government cannot ensure free sale of fuel. Hoarders of all sorts are rulling the roost, they said.
But it is easier said than done. As already reported, the oil pumps sold the fuel two days after the announcement of the Minister. Besides as against the free sale there were restrictions. The vehicle owners had to stand in the queue for long hours for their share of petrol. It was disgusting that while there was slow motion sale of petrol in the oil pumps several roadside vendors were openly selling petrol in bottles. People in a hurry for office, dropping children to school or rushing a patient to the hospitals have to buy petrol from the roadside vendors. Naturally many sections stand to gain from the artificial scarcity.
By noon or so, most of the oil pumps closed down saying that the stock had exhausted. There was no official to check the stock position. The vehicle owners suspect that just a fraction was sold and that the lion's share was secreted for siphoning off to the roadside vendors at huge profit.
Despite appeal by the Minister there is panic among the owners since the 98-hour blockade by the United Naga Council is approaching. In Manipur the petrol business has been a multi million one since there is a heavy demand and there are blockades and general strikes round the year.