Mumbai: Sunday closure of petrol pumps fuels debate among experts

Come May 14, fuel stations will close every Sunday. Pic for Representation
Come May 14, fuel stations will close every Sunday. Pic for Representation

Last-minute decisions to go on long drives on Sunday may become a thing of the past. From May 14, at least 23,000 petrol pumps, including those in Mumbai, all under the aegis of the Consortium of Indian Petroleum Dealers (CIPD), will run dry. Fuel stations across eight states, including Maharashtra, will put their shutters down in an effort to conserve oil. "It is a decision that will be good for the environment too," says Mumbai's Ravi Shinde, president of the Petrol Dealers Association.

'Not ready for the move'
Nitin Dossa, executive chairman of Western India Automobile Association (WIAA), however, slams the move as an ill-thought one. Dossa asks, "What will happen if people need fuel for an emergency? I do not think this ridiculous closure of petrol pumps will achieve its objective. At least one oil company should keep its fuel stations each week."

Also read - Petrol, diesel prices to change every day from May 1

Dossa, avid vintage car collector and owner, fears that this will lead to black marketing of petrol. "Cabs may also hold people to ransom. The government must give incentives to other fuel-saving measures like boosting the purchase of electric cars, encouraging the manufacturers and giving them subsidies, and giving owners parking facilities."

'This is a starting point'
The Sunday closure though finds support in Debashis Roy Chowdhury, director (Western Region) of the Petroleum Conservation Research Association, which has its office in Bandra-Kurla Complex.

Says Chowdhury, "Let us look at this as a starting point. We have to get things off the table. There will be many more steps towards conservation, which include awareness workshops and actions like fully automated toll nakas."

He adds, "People have to make fuel conservation a part of their driving DNA. For instance, if you see a red light for 90 seconds, then shut off your engine." Till that conservation awareness and practice comes in, Chowdhury believes that closing petrol pumps on one day of the week is good. He explains, "I do not think the four-wheel driver is going to suffer massively. It is the commuters who put petrol daily for Rs 100/150 that may be impacted."

Shinde also says the closure will fulfill a two-pronged objective. "One will be fuel conservation and the other; it will help us reduce our expenditure or costs."

He adds, "I have heard irked people say that the Essential Commodities Act should be invoked, and we should not be allowed to close, but I do not think that will be possible."

'Commuters will get used to it'
"This is a small attempt at fuel conservation and saving the environment. Largely, people may be unaffected, except maybe a small number who are speed bikers or fun drivers likely to zoom around on Sundays," says Shinde.

Fears of serpentine queues on Fridays and Saturdays at petrol pumps are dispelled by the supporters of the closure, saying that once people are used to the concept, they will automatically fill their tanks for the week.

Differing Opinions

Ravi Shinde,
President of the Petrol Dealers Association
'Petrol will be available for emergency vehicles on Sunday. There will be skeleton staff to service ambulances'

Nitin Dossa,
Executive chairman of Western India Automobile Association
'We need to have a much better public transportation system, before implementing this'

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