Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai telephoned his Indian counterpart Manamohan Singh and sought help to end shortage of petroleum products.

KATHMANDU: After getting on the back foot in the wake of pressure from several quarters, especially student unions, the government now is in firefighting mode to address fuel crisis, which is but getting chronic by the day.
Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai today telephoned his Indian counterpart Manamohan Singh and sought help to end current shortage of petroleum products.
The prime minister swung into action today, a day after an incident in Bhaktapur where locals reeling under cooking gas crisis had intercepted five vehicles carrying LPG and distributed around 350 cylinders among themselves, raising fears that situation could turn far worse than expected.

“The government has requested India to ‘do the needful’ to help end current crisis of petroleum products,” Nepal Petroleum Dealers’ National Association President Saroj Prasad Pande quoted the prime minister.

In yet another development, the Cabinet today decided to release Rs 2 billion loan to Nepal Oil Corporation, which has been seeking Rs 4.5 billion from the government. Minister for Commerce and Supplies Lekh Raj Bhatta’s warning to resign did the trick and forced the government, which was hitherto reluctant to provide loan, to agree to provide half of the sought amount. According to Deepak Subedi, Spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies, Employees’ Provident Fund is lending the money to NOC.

Prime Minister Bhattarai today afternoon also held discussions with MoCS and Ministry of Home Affairs and directed them to take all necessary measures to ease the supply of petroleum products. He also held talks with petroleum dealers and LPG bottlers and urged them to follow fair business practices and refrain from hoarding which could flare up general public’s anger. The entrepreneurs requested the prime minister to reduce current tax burden and form a separate petroleum board to regulate petroleum business.

Minister Bhatta informed that MoCS was setting up a high level monitoring committee to control hoarding, cartel and black market. The government today, after holding talks with student unions, also decided to provide 33 per cent concession on cooking gas and kerosene. Prime Minister Bhattarai has vowed to form a separate taskforce led by vice-chairman of National Planning Commission to develop the modality for providing concession to students and the poor.

Agitating student unions later today called off all their scheduled protests. by SHIROMANI DHUNGANA from THT

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