A week into diesel shortage, Chennai gasps for life
CHENNAI: A week-long diesel scarcity and three days of irregular petrol supply have left Chennai gasping.
On Tuesday morning, when three tankers carrying 67,000 kilolitres of diesel were about to drop anchor at Chennai port, petrol stations said it would be another 24 hours before people could fill up their vehicle tanks. Chennai consumes 7,000 kilo litres of diesel daily.
Several people opted to work from home. And the employers were not complaining, as many of them couldn’t switch on their diesel gensets during power cuts. “One more day of diesel shortage and we may have to ask all our employees to work from home,” said an entrepreneur in Perungudi.
Those with petrol vehicles continued to brave the 41-degrees heat for a couple of litres of the fuel. “I stood in a queue at a pump in Nungambakkam from 6am to 9.30am, and finally got two litres for my bike,” said V K Santhanam, an insurance agent.
City roads remained decongested by default, as people preferred to park their cars at home and take the public transport. That added to the rush on suburban trains and Metropolitan Transport Corporation buses. “With just one more day’s petrol in my bike, I couldn’t take chances. I took the local train,” said Ramesh Subramanian, an airconditioning mechanic who usually covers 70km a day on work. This meant less work for people like Subramanian in a city with poor train and bus connectivity.
For others who could afford to hire an autorickshaw, it meant more than double the daily commute expense as autorickshaw drivers fleeced with impunity. “From Mambalam station to Teynampet, for which I usually pay Rs 40, the auto driver charged Rs 70,” said S Paul. A shopkeeper near the directorate of medical services, he obviously couldn’t work from home.
The fuel scarcity pinched even those who stayed home. “Vegetable prices have gone up by Rs 2- Rs 5,” said Jayshri Kalyanam, a homemaker at Thillai Ganga Nagar. “And the shopkeeper says it could get worse as lesser number of trucks are bringing vegetables to the city.”
A week after diesel pumps went dry and three days since thousands have been haggling for petrol, neither the oil companies nor the government had a convincing explanation. Officials in the civil service department spoke about “partial shutdown at CPCL and water shortage at the Mangalore refinery in April.” Oil company officials said there were “supply problems.”
Tired of elusive reasons, the citizen, by Tuesday, was more interested in a solution. IOCL executive director V K Jayachandran said there was no shortage of petrol in the refineries, but the problem was a spin-off of the diesel shortage. “Since petrol bunks were not willing to take only petrol, which would cost them more, and since rules don’t allow us to send partly-filled tankers to bunks, petrol supply was affected,” he said.
With the three diesel tankers downloading the fuel by mid-day, the situation is expected to improve by Tuesday, said an oil company official. “By Wednesday morning, we should be back to normal,” he said.
More than half the number of cabs in the city have gone off the roads. From 8am to 10am, when drivers change shifts, the number of cabs has gone down by 60%, said Antony Raj, an agent of Saravana Taxi Services.
“Out of 50 cabs, only 10 are running today and we are getting hundreds of calls since morning. We are able to run services even for those who booked yesterday,” said Raj.
And the city may go dry of water, too, if the crisis persists. More than 70% of the water tankers have stopped services due to the fuel shortage. Residential colonies in Anna Nagar, Ashok Nagar, Porur and Guindy, which were dependent of private water tankers, have sought the corporation’s help. Thangam Agencies, a leading water tanker services in the city said out of 10 of their tankers, only three are operational on Tuesday. This is likely to affect functioning of universities, colleges and hospitals.