India's fuel pumps run dry as strike enters 3rd day
The shutdown entered its third day after talks failed late on Thursday between the government and officials of state-run firms.
Long queues at petrol pumps jammed rush-hour traffic in major Indian cities and taxis stopped running as a strike by state-run oil employees demanding higher pay began to bite on Friday.
The shutdown entered its third day after talks failed late on Thursday between the government and officials of state-run firms that dominate India's energy sector and control almost the entire supply of transport fuels, natural gas and domestic crude.
Up to 80 percent of petrol stations in large cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata had run out of stocks and supplies to airlines may also fall, industry officials said.
"We are getting a large-scale dry out of petrol stations across the country. Over the night and this morning a large number has gone dry," said N. Srikumar, executive director for corporate communications at state-run Indian Oil Corp.
Alongside a separate truckers strike, the oil sector shutdown has inconvenienced millions of people and threatens to push up prices of food and commodities across the country.
Officials at IOC, which runs about 18,000 of India's 35,000 petrol pumps, and other state-run firms such as Oil and Natural Gas Corp began the strike on Wednesday.
The few petrol stations that had stocks struggled to meet the heavy rush of motorists.
"I had to work till 3:00 a.m. because there was a long queue of vehicles trying to tank up," said Dhruva Gharai, the owner of a gas station in Kolkata.
Some petrol stations reported highest-ever daily sales as motorists filled up in panic. "It will take at least a week for things to normalise," Gharai said.
A spokesman for Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd said the company's fuel sales to pumps in Mumbai had fallen to 60-70 percent of normal.
The situation is set to worsen as a few managerial staff are struggling to keep critical supplies flowing.
Srikumar said IOC was maintaining supplies to its top priorities, the railways, defence and airlines, but the senior managers who have been deployed for the task were struggling.
"It's turning out to be a little out of control at this point of time. They are senior management people. We have fanned out senior people. But 250-300 people cannot make up for 10,000 people who are on strike," Srikumar said.
Union leaders held talks for two hours late at night on Thursday, but could not come to an agreement.
Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd has not joined the strike but its operations are also affected by the truckers strike.
Reuters Last Mod: 09 Ocak 2009, 12:31