Talks between petroleum traders and government remained inconclusive today too as minister for commerce and supplies Shankar Prasad Koirala sought time to explore alternatives to traders' demands.
The next round of talks will be held on Friday, according to spokesperson of the ministry Deepak Subedi.
The three major stakeholders of the petroleum business — Nepal LP Gas Industries Association, Nepal Petroleum Dealers’ Association and Nepal Petroleum Transporters’ Association — have threatened to stop petroleum supply from April 7, if the government does not withdraw the Petroleum and Gas Trading Monitoring Directives-2013.
"We have demanded an immediate withdrawal of the Petroleum and Gas Trading Monitoring Directives-2013 and the government has asked for more time to do homework," said general secretary of Nepal Petroleum Dealers’ Association Bishwa Prakash, adding that their protest plan will continue if the government does not withdraw the directive.
"We want the directive to be withdrawn from Nepal Gazette as soon as possible," he said, adding that the minister has assured them of talks on the issue with chairman of the Election Council Khil Raj Regmi before sitting for the next round of negotiations.
"Minister Koirala has pledged to bring forth an acceptable solution to the problem," he said.
Talks between petroleum traders and secretary of the ministry Lila Mani Joshi had failed earlier today as the government said that it would not roll back the directive.
However, consumer rights activists have said that the decision by petroleum traders to go on strike is not justifiable. "The government should enforce the Essential Services Act against traders, if they stop supply and distribution of petroleum products," said consumer rights activist Jyoti Baniya.
According to him, both parties should explore a win-win alternative to solve the issue as the country is heading towards an election. It is not the right time to enforce the directive too, he added.
The associations have objected to the criteria set for the private sector's entry in the petroleum business saying that the directive is not in their favour but in the favour of big business houses.The directive has defined several criteria like a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) plant must have refilling capacity of 250 tonnes per day and stock capacity of at least 500 metric tonnes. Likewise, the royalty of LPG bottlers has also been increased to Rs 2.6 million. Similarly, it also mentions that petroleum dealers must have three tankers to carry petroleum products and dealers must load at least 3,000 litres at a time.