7 lakh CNG vehicles brace for short supply, long queues
With Mahanagar Gas Limited (MGL) deciding to reduce commissions, 34 private CNG stations may face closure by March 2020. While two stations have already shut in the ongoing tussle over contracts and agreements between dealers and MGL, four more may face closure by December 31. This will eventually impact close to seven lakh CNG vehicles in Mumbai and Thane. CNG dealers say they have been dealing with MGL for the past two decades. As per the existing contracts, they receive a commission of Rs 4.10 per kg of CNG. However, with reduced commissions, they would get Rs 2.50 per kg of CNG, which amounts to a loss of 40 per cent. They say this is forcing many of them to go out of business. There are 133 CNG stations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). While close to a 100 are run by oil marketing firms (HPCL and BPCL) and MGL itself, there are seven private dealers in the eastern and the western suburbs of Mulund, Kurla, Jogeshwari, Goregaon, Malad, Kandivali and Chembur. Another 33 private stations are in Navi Mumbai and Thane. Around 2.2 lakh autorickshaws and 4.8 lakh private vehicles and mobile aggregators operate in the MMR. With shutting down of 30-odd CNG stations, the load will fall on the others and cause delays, ultimately impacting daily commuters. Transport experts say an autorickshaw plies close to 130 km each day and one of the biggest reasons for refusing passengers is the lack of gas. Autorickshaw union leader Shashank Rao said, “If there is any disruption in the supply of CNG, then the first to be hit would be autorickshaws. Each rickshaw takes close to 90 minutes at a CNG station during peak hours. If there is a problem with dealers, the waiting time would go up further.” For the past 45 days, CNG dealers and MGL have been bickering over revised clauses in their agreements. While the dealers say they can’t sustain with reduced commissions, MGL says it’s prepared with “alternatives”. The clashing points range from MGL asking private dealers for their land to reduced commission for every kilogram of CNG sold. Petrol Dealers Association president M Venkatarao said the private dealers have refused to accept the news terms and conditions. “We are not going on strike. In the event of MGL stopping supply, they will themselves be responsible for causing inconvenience to motorists,” he said. A statement released by MGL read, “MGL Board has recently approved new business models which will govern the terms and conditions, while laying stress on optimised remunerations and improved customer service standards. The existing dealers have opposed introduction of these new models, which are otherwise widely prevalent in the industry. Of the 36 dealer outlets, agreements of four outlets are expiring on December 31, after completion of an entire contract period exceeding 15 years.” The notice said that MGL has called these four dealers for discussions on signing of new agreements aligned with the current policies of the company. “Instead of engaging with MGL, all the dealers have resorted to forming their association and have threatened to take coercive actions, including stoppage of operations at their outlets which would inconvenience the public at large.” MGL said, in the event of any dealer discontinuing operations, there would be other operating outlets available in the vicinity. It said MGL would take all necessary steps to maintain uninterrupted supply of CNG.