OMCs warn of ECA provisions as 54,000 fuel retailers threaten strike

State-owned oil marketing companies have requested the dealer outlets engaged in fuel retailing not to go ahead with a planned strike on 13 October. OMCS on Tuesday warned dealers that they might be forced to invoke the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) for disruption of services due to the strike.

The OMCs also said they will seek the help of police in case of law and order problems, hinting that the companies may look at alternative ways of distributing fuel.

According to OMCs, the main grudge of fuel retailers is a recent amendment made in the Marketing Discipline Guidelines (MDG), which gives the companies powers to impose a penalty of up to Rs2 lakh and suspension of dealership in cases where dealers are found to have deliberately tampered with the machinery to cheat consumers.

"OMCs have zero tolerance policy towards customer cheating and it will impact only those dealers who indulge in such malpractices," Balwinder Singh Canth, director (marketing), Indian Oil, said during a media interaction with his counterparts from the other two OMCs.

The 54,000-strong dealers, including members of the Federation of All India Petroleum Traders (FAIPT), the All Indian Petroleum Dealers Association (AIPDA) and the Consortium of Indian Petroleum Dealers (CIPD), have jointly called a one-day strike on Friday and an indefinite closure of sales and supplies from 27 October, demanding among other things, inclusion of petrol and diesel under GST, scrapping of plans for home delivery of fuel, pulling back of daily pricing mechanism, resolution of manpower issues, delivery of incorrect quantity/quality of fuel to them, etc.

However, around 1,000 company-owned-company-operated (COCO) fuel stations which are owned by these three OMCs will remain open, the officials said.

While a one-day strike may pass off without much problems, an indefinite strike could mar the atmosphere as consumers are threatened with a supply stoppage, which could possibly lead to law and order problems.

According to the OMCs, certain dealers have managed to manipulate the vending machines at the petrol pumps that were sealed by Weights & Measure Department (W&MD) and cheat the consumers. As per the provisions in the amended MDG, a dealer is required to check every day before the start of his business whether all his machines and nozzles are in fine condition and feed the information into the marketing company's software system. Further, automation at all dealerships, which is expected to be completed by 18 December, will add to their efforts towards transparency.

OMCs also allege they have been paying the dealers to offer basic minimum pay to the staffers at dealerships, but it is not being passed on to the staffers.

On the proposed home / destination delivery of petroleum products, the officials said a report on this is being prepared by the regulatory body Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation, and only after it gets the sanction, the mechanism will be rolled out.