With the Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force (STF) cracking down on errant petrol pumps across the state, some of the pump owners went on a strike in Lucknow late Monday. However, most of the stations were opened by afternoon following a meeting of a delegation of Lucknow’s petroleum dealers with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma, and top government officers.
Sudhir Bora, general secretary of Lucknow Petrol Diesel Distributors Association, said the delegation met Adityanath, Sharma and others on Tuesday at 11 am. “The chief minister has assured us that we will not face any harassment during inspection drives,” he added.
Bora also claimed that the dealers had not called a strike but many pumps were closed due to unavailability of workers. “There was no strike. For about 10 to 15 hours, stations were closed, as there were no workers. Petrol pump employees have been are traumatised by the police action. But now, all stations have opened after the government’s assurance,” he said.
Lucknow District Supply Officer Santosh Vikram Shahi said the fuel supply was affected when on Monday night, petrol pumps were shut down. “But all resumed operations by Tuesday noon, following a meeting of dealers with the district magistrate,” he added.
“We assured the owners that they should not be afraid of any action if they are running their business honestly,” Additional District Magistrate (Civil Supplies) Alka Verma told PTI.
The STF had initiated the crackdown on the night of April 27 when it raided seven petrol pumps in Lucknow. According to the force, they were tipped off that an electronic chip was being installed at the pumps helping them get a profit worth lakhs per month. The chip, costing around Rs 3,000, reduced the output by nearly five to 10 per cent. It is attached with a wire that is linked with a remote control. The remote control sets the limit and if a customer purchases one litre petrol, he actually gets 940 ml or less. On an average, the pumps using this device were earning an undue profit Rs 14 lakh per month, according to STF.
The STF had arrested an electrician, Rajendra, who had allegedly supplied the chip to several petrol pumps. It also arrested 23 people, including owners of a few petrol pumps, and sealed seven pumps, including one run by B N Shukla, the former president of Uttar Pradesh Petroleum Traders Association (UPPTA).
While claiming that the strike called by Lucknow dealers cannot be justified, UPPTA interim president Ashwani Attrish said: “Dealers are going through a media trial while oil companies, which own the machines, are not being questioned at all. The STF had arrested 23 people linked to dealers but why none of the officials from the oil companies have been questioned.”