About 2,000 petrol pumps run dry as truckers strike against new penal code

Fuel reserves have run out at around 2,000 petrol stations, mostly in western and northern India, as a strike by some truck drivers' unions entered its second day on Tuesday. While state oil companies have filled tanks at most petrol pumps across the country in anticipation of the truckers' strike, some petrol pumps in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Punjab have run out of stock due to heavy crowds, industry officials said.

Long queues were seen at many pumps in these states as panic spread due to stock out. They said the situation in southern India was better, with no major supply disruptions except for a few pumps in Hyderabad.

Essential supplies of vegetables, fruits, and milk could also be affected if the strike continues for three days or if the pan India Movement is launched.

Truckers strike

Some truck, bus, and tanker operators on Monday began a three-day strike against stringent prison and fine rules under the new Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita (BNS) criminal code in hit-and-run cases.

The All India Auto Transport Federation, which brings together truck operators, has so far not called for a nationwide strike and its representatives will meet Home Ministry officials to express their concerns over BNS.

Industry officials said that most petrol pumps have enough stock for 2-3 days and should not witness any problems if the strike continues for the aforementioned three days. However, there will be problems if the strike is extended or a protest is called across India, they added.

There are about a million trucks carrying petrol and diesel, in addition to liquefied petroleum gas, from oil company depots to petrol pumps and gas distribution agencies.

They added that the strike affected the movement of trucks in some western and northern states, adding that some liquefied gas truck movement was also affected.

However, there are still no complaints about LPG shortage as most users have dual connections (two LPG cylinders) and a reserve stock even if one cylinder runs out.

They added that if the strike is prolonged, LPG supplies may also be affected.

In Maharashtra, the state government asked the police to ensure an uninterrupted supply of petrol and diesel, while in Madhya Pradesh, passengers found traveling inconvenient.

Since Monday, protesters have blocked roads and highways in states including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

The new law, which replaced the colonial-era Indian Penal Code, stipulates a prison sentence of up to 10 years and/or a fine of Rs 7,000 for serious road accidents due to negligent driving in which drivers escape without informing the police.

“Most truck drivers choose to flee even in minor accidents otherwise they will have to face mob justice and risk losing their lives”, the truck drivers said. “While mobs often get away with it, imposing harsh penalties on drivers is unfair”, they said.

Long queues were also reported at petrol stations in Shimla and Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh. A huge rush was seen at petrol pumps in Mumbai and Thane as people came to fill their car tanks fearing fuel shortage.

Mumbai Petrol Distributors Association president Chetan Modi said that fuel supply to petrol pumps has been affected due to drivers' agitation since Monday. "Yesterday, the gasoline pumps started to run dry. If we do not receive supplies, most of the pumps will run out of fuel by the end of the day," he added.

Protesters blocked roads in several districts in Gujarat, including Kheda, Valsad, Gir Somnath, Bharuch, and Mehsana, and in places like Nagpur in Maharashtra, using trucks as roadblocks.

Tapan Sharma, former president of the Ahmedabad Auto Transport Association in Gujarat, said, “The protests took place spontaneously. The association did not call a strike. The drivers are acting independently due to concerns about the new law. They are protesting briefly and then continuing their march. But these sporadic demonstrations have caused delays in the delivery of goods.”

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