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Oli-led Government-21

Issue March 2016

Drama Government Plays In Fuel Supply


Did you know that the executive director of Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) was in India to talk with his Indian counter of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) for regular oil flow to Nepal? I know but these guys have been playing only a drama. The prime minister had been in India. The prime minister said, “His India visit was highly successful.” The minister for supplies goes to inspect the gas depot but all these things have been the drama to confuse the common folks, and to flourish the parallel market; you surely know these activities of the State employees from the prime minister down to the executive director of NOC had been to fill up the pockets of all those in the establishment.


You know my son has recently bought a TATA bus to ferry the tourists, a friend of mine told me, and then he told a brief story how his son managed the fuel for running his bus. The government had set the ration of 20 liter of diesel for his bus per day but he needed 80 liters to run his bus effectively and to earn something for him and for the bank from which he borrowed the money. Then, what he did was he paid Rs140 per liter of diesel against the regular price of Rs75. You could get any quantity of fuels at any pump if you knew how to approach the pump owner, and then pay twice the price of the regular prices of the fuel. Even the State-run pumps had been doing such parallel business. No shortage of fuels in Nepal.


If you did not want to pay twice the prices of the fuels then you had to leave your bus, car or any other vehicles on line for the whole day or even to let stay on line for the next day for having 20 liters of diesel. It had been so not because of the short supply but because of the rationing of the fuels.


Rationing of the fuels had been a card the establishment had been playing to cause an artificial short supply to flourish the parallel market of the petroleum products. Everybody knew that anybody having a business could not survive running on the 20 liters of the fossil fuel. However, the establishment had provided common folks with an alternative of the parallel market where s/he could buy any quantity of fuels. Everybody knew it. Prime Minister Oli knew it. Supply minister Ganeshman Pun knew it very well.


I had a friend of mine running a fuel pump in Kathmandu. One day I happened to drop in the pump he was about to close. He said that the time had been out for serving the fuel to commoners, and then it was time for others to serve. What do you mean by time out, I asked. The government had set the time for serving the customers depending on the number of tankers of petroleum products each pump received. Once that time was out I simply shut down the pump, and closed the regular business.


What then you would do with the leftover fuels if you were not able to sell all the tankers of the fuels, I asked. That was the trick our establishment played. The leftover fuels were the bonus for us and for the establishment, too. Not only this trick, we had another trick, too. All the fuel pumps announced the time of opening of serving the fuels to the customers but none of the pump started off serving the fuels on time. Every pump delayed serving fuels to the consumers at least for three hours not less. That three hours fuel savings was another bonus for us. Neither customers nor the common folks knew such a trick but it had been the open secret in our circle, and in the circle of the establishment.


Everybody in our circle and in the circle of the establishment says if you cannot make money in this circumstance then you will never make money in our life. That is really an immoral act to make money at the cost of the consumers. What a sin you are talking about. Everybody in our circle and in the circle of establishment actually waits for such situation in which everybody enjoys making a huge windfall profit. Making fuel available easily at the twice the regular price had been the good service the fuel pump owners and the establishment officials had been doing to the people and the nation otherwise Nepalese would have been done with when India totally blocked the entry points but opening our tankers. That was a great service Modi had done to Oli and Pun, and certainly to us and finally to the fuel-starved Nepalese having the fuel at the price at least twice the market price.


The establishment had made it clear either you pay twice the price of fuels or stay on online forever for a few liters of fuels. Anybody’s choice would be to pay twice the price if s/he were able to pay. Only those that did not have money or that did not need to run business for profits from the fuel supply they would stand on the line for a few liters forever.


The executive director had gone to India pretending that India had not opened the floodgate of the petroleum supply to Nepal. Why India needed to do so when India had done with the Nepalese constitution accepting it after the amendment, and done with the Madheshi movement, and practically done with the blockade. The border had been as wide open as could be as had been in the past. So, floodgate was opened but the NOC said that the fuel had not been flowing in. That was the trick any international moneymaker could learn from the Nepalese pump owners and their bosses in the State.


Why the executive director of NOC needed to go to India. Prime Minister KP Oli had been playing a trump card even though he said that he did not know how to play card before boarding a plane to India on February 19, 2016. He had been holding the card of the short supply of petroleum products to win the profits in the massive scale to fatten his party’s cadres and possibly a cadre of the former YCL chief Ganeshman Pun: currently the supply minister. This ministry was juicy, and only the very greedy people chose this ministry that controlled the NOC, fertilizers, sugar and other food item supplies. It might be the joint card of Prime Minister KP Oli and his supply minister Ganeshman Pun playing then.


Every logical thinking Nepalese understands that India has no immediate interest in harassing the Nepalese common folks. Modi had committed a humongous mistake of attempting to teach a lesson to KP Oli that happened to make troubles to common folks losing a huge business even for the compatriot businesspeople. So, Modi had no intention to cause any trouble to Nepalese anymore rather he wanted immediate respite from the short supply of not only petroleum products but also any other products, too.


The Nepalese establishment must have bribed some reporters that India must have been making the short supply of petroleum products to counter the Nepalese government had signed off the agreement with China on the supply of petroleum products to Nepal. The poor unlucky reporters rather sold to the establishment could ignore the open secret that the import of fuels from China via Tibet would be more than not feasible because of the long land route the fuels had to travel means the high cost of haul of the fuels to Nepal. Also they must know that Indian supplying the petroleum products at the 70% of the regular supplies was nothing but the propaganda, as supplying less petroleum products to Nepal means pushing Nepal to China that the Indian establishment would never commit a mistake once more.


The Nepalese media had been propagating that Nepal was going to sign off an agreement with China on China supplying at least 40% of the total requirement of petroleum products at the time of Prime Minister Oli’s visit to China in March 2016. The media people had quoted the Minister for Supplies Ganeshman Pun but the credibility of the report was unlikely to be high in view of the practicability of importing petroleum products from China. Some reporters went on saying that China had offered to supply the cooking gas. Others had said that the Nepalese government was going to seek the assistance from China to build petroleum depots at various places to have the reserve of petroleum products at least for three months.


The reporters possibly knew that billions of rupees worth of investment was required to upgrade the highways linking the northern border entry points. Nepal did not have so much of money to invest in the infrastructures only to bring in the fossil fuels from China. Would China throw its hard earned assets to invest in the infrastructures to be built in the fragile mountains of the Nepalese territory? Chinese officials had been the top businesspeople that had successfully led their country to a second largest economy, and they had been trying to make China a top one largest economy in the shortest possible period. So, they were highly unlikely to waste their resources.


Bringing fossil fuels from China possibly would take decades before being economically feasible, and physically making them sustainable by crossing the high altitude passes to come down to the mountains of Nepal and then taking them to the consumers in the valleys, hills and the plains. So, why should India delay sending the fossil fuels to Nepal. India knew that China would not be able to meet the demand of Nepal for petroleum products immediately. Then, why should India bother with Nepal signing off an agreement with China on the petroleum products?


Why Nepal could not turn to Bangladesh once India opened the corridor to Bangladesh for the trade and transit if the establishment was willing to diversify the import of petroleum products. Bangladesh could make a few billions rupees worth of profits selling fuels to Nepal. The Nepalese establishment did not want such an easy way of supply of petroleum products, as the establishment would not have an excuse to cause an artificial short supply of fuels, and it would not be able to make not only money but a huge money for itself and for the petroleum pump operators.


So, sending the executive director of NOC to India, KP Oli was actually showing his trump card to the Nepalese common folks but Nepalese had been watching his card and his drama, too played together with his supply minister. Unfortunately, Oli did not want to understand the irritating mood of Nepalese suffering from having no sure supply of petroleum products, power, and water, too. They had started off thinking how long they had to line up at the petroleum pump stations for hours to get only 15 to 20 liters of gasoline or diesel.


Some people have already started off telling Oli if he could not make smooth supply of the petroleum products, power, and water then why he was staying on in office. Either he should make the smooth supply of those commodities or quit the office. The country had passed through the political transitional period. Oli had no lame excuse to corrupt the supply chain of fuels and make artificial shortage and charge high prices to the common folks only to fatten the unscrupulous fuels traders and the unscrupulous decision makers sitting at the various levels of the corrupt Nepalese bureaucracy that had been the home of the rent seeking bureaucrats for even doing the regular duty.


I quote the following news item taken from the dated Feb 16. 2016:


• Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) published a notice with a list of petrol pumps that would distribute fuel on Monday (Feb 15). According to the list, Sita Traders, a fuel pump in Khasi Bazaar, Bagbazaar (Kathmandu) among other 89 petrol pumps on the list, (each) would distribute 4,000 liters of petrol. But the petrol pump, Sita Traders, was shut down around a decade ago. Where does the petrol go?


• A star hotel in Kathmandu applied for 3,000 liters of diesel at the NOC. An official at the NOC suggested that the hotel apply for 10,000 liters of diesel, and the NOC would provide them 4,000 liters. The hotel happily applied for 10,000 liters of diesel and walked away with 4,000 liters of diesel. Where does the remaining 6,000 liters diesel go?


The answer is simple: NOC the state petroleum monopoly is involved neck deep in the black marketing of petroleum products. Despite the lifting of blockade by India and gradual restoration of the supply of petroleum products to the pre-blockade level since the last four days, the consumers are still made to queue up for hours to get fuel.


However, anyone willing to pay double the market price can easily get petrol.


According to National Human Rights Commission, the NOC, security agencies, and government officials are involved in the black marketing of petroleum products.


March 3, 2016

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