Oil sector officers called off their strike on Friday evening but only after the day saw empty roads and kilometre-long queues outside the few fuel stations not left dry. Sweta Dutta took a round
HP e-fuelling station,near Jangpura Flyover
Having run into three out of stock petrol pumps,we pulled into this fuel station with perhaps the longest line of vehicles. With some 30 cars waiting ahead of us,all to get their car tanks full,we knew we had to be patient but,at least,it could be worth the wait.
Could be,for Friday had scores of tales of motorists snaking ahead in the lines,only to be shown the out of stock sign as their turn inched closer.
As the queue snailed on,a couple of young boys handed out pamphlets. One of them was a tempting alternative: it suggested buying battery-operated REVA cars. The others were mostly lucky-draw contest slips for customers,certainly the only positive side of the wait.
While the promoters idled around,the petrol pump workers and traffic police personnel deployed to manage the rush had a harrowing time. Some even shared their complaints with any customer willing to lend an ear. I went home at 11 last night and returned 6.30 this morning, a traffic policeman said,getting set for a tea break at the kiosk near the petrol pump. The rush doesnt seem to end.
I have been surviving on just tea. Put the bill on the petrol pump, the policeman told the kiosk owner.
The latter,Hari Kishen,had his own cup of woe to stir meanwhile: This strike has cost me heavy. Most customers are busy pushing their vehicles and unwilling to lose their place in the queue,so hardly anyone has had tea or any snack all day. My regular customers have also vanished due to the rush.
Customers seemed to care little. As groups moved ahead and got their tanks filled up,finally,they rejoiced with friends made in the hour-long pull up to the refuelling counter.
Ritesh Kumar,who waited in the line with his bike for more than an hour,was disappointed even after stocking up: he was denied extra petrol in cans he was carrying. I could not have brought both my car and bike,so I came with a couple of jerry cans. But they are not giving loose petrol,which means I will have to come back with my car and wait another two hours.
Despite warnings against panic-buying,most did not want to take a chance. Piyush Singh,a customer just ahead us,said he was stocking up for his Mussoorie trip over the weekend.
By late evening,news began pouring in through the FM channels and phone calls that the strike was called off. But cars continued to join the queue.