Nongpoh, November 29: The Meghalaya Government has responded to heightened tensions within the oil transportation sector by convening a meeting at the Circuit House here today.
This move came in the wake of a letter from the North East Petroleum Mazdoor Union (NEPMU) to the Minister of Food Civil Supplies, Government of Meghalaya, dated November 27, 2023. The NEPMU expressed deep-seated concerns over alleged instances of police harassment targeting oil tanker drivers and helpers in Meghalaya. These concerns were of such gravity that the union contemplated a cessation of oil loading and transportation activities in the state.
It’s noteworthy that the Meghalaya Police had undertaken raids on November 24, 2023, across various sections of National Highway 6. The raids were initiated in response to complaints lodged by the Petroleum Dealers Association of Meghalaya regarding oil theft and malpractices. These actions, however, resulted in a counter-reaction from NEPMU, as outlined in their letter to the Minister of Food Civil Supplies.
The meeting, orchestrated by the Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, Government of Meghalaya, saw the participation of a diverse array of stakeholders. Notable attendees included representatives from NEPMU, Petroleum Dealers Association of Meghalaya, Meghalaya Indane Distributor Association, and officials from Oil Marketing Companies (IOCL, BPCL, HPCL). Additionally, key officials from the East Khasi Hills and Ri Bhoi District Administration, alongside law enforcement from Ri Bhoi District and East Khasi Hills, were present to navigate the complexities of the situation.
Pravin Bakshi, Commissioner & Secretary, Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, Government of Meghalaya, provided insights during a media briefing after the meeting. He expressed gratitude for the cooperative atmosphere and acknowledged the multifaceted concerns raised by NEPMU. Bakshi underscored the government’s commitment to fair labor practices, statutory rights, and the need for ensuring smooth oil tanker operations. He also urged that the ongoing police actions do not unduly inconvenience those fulfilling their duties.
Bakshi appealed to NEPMU and other stakeholders to reconsider the strike call, assuring them of the government’s dedication to resolving the pertinent issues. He emphasized the importance of avoiding panic buying and reassured the public that there is an ample supply of oil products. The government, he stated, is actively engaged in finding a comprehensive solution to the complex challenges at hand.
Ramen Das, the General Secretary of NEPMU, took the opportunity to express gratitude to the government for facilitating the meeting. He clarified that the strike had not been initiated and attributed the confusion to the premature leak of the union’s letter to the public. Das assured that a positive message, signaling a resolution, would be released shortly. He urged the public to remain composed, highlighting the abundance of available resources, including LPG.
RL Blah, President of Meghalaya Indane Distributor Association, and Kennedy Khyriem, President of Petroleum Dealers Association of Meghalaya, conveyed their appreciation to Pravin Bakshi. They elucidated the potential ramifications of a strike on the supply chain of essential commodities, particularly during the festive season. Both leaders condemned malpractices within the industry and pledged increased vigilance to combat such activities.
Stakeholders remain cautiously optimistic about the prospect of reaching a resolution, and a formal press release indicating the withdrawal of the strike is anticipated in the coming hours. The public is earnestly advised to stay calm and refrain from panic buying, as the government actively collaborates with industry stakeholders to navigate and address the multifaceted challenges at hand.