Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Government bows down to illegal strike by bottlers

The government has bowed down to the 'illegal strike' by the gas bottlers and revoked its earlier decision to suspend the product delivery order PDO of Himalayan Petrochemicals, the company that manufactures HP brand of gas cylinders.
Gas bottlers have been protesting by refusing to take PDO to import cooking gas since yesterday forcing to withdraw the government decision against the HP gas.
Supply of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) – popularly known as cooking gas – comes under the essential service and the bottlers' refusal against the Essential Service Act was against the law of the land. Essential Services Operation Act, 2014, states that no one shall disrupt the supply of essential consumer goods or services by exercising a monopoly or through any other means. But the LPG bottlers have challenged the government by refusing to take PDO of the cooking gas. The bottlers have declared to indefinitely stop collecting PDO from Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) from yesterday. PDO is a document needed for importing cooking gas from India.
The weak governance, lack of political will power due to rising corruption and red tape and illegal syndicate of gas bottlers forced the government to bow down against the illegal strike putting thousands of lives at danger. The cooking gas cylinders – that are virtually bombs as they have not been undergone hydro-static test regularly as it should have been – has already taken three lives a month ago.
The talks between Supply Ministry and Nepal LP Gas Industry Association (NLPGIA) held today at the ministry concluded after the government took its earlier decision to suspend PDO of HP gas.
Consumer Protection Council – led by the supply minister – had suspended the PDO of HP gas last week. Three people were killed around a month ago on May 20, after the fatal explosion of HP Gas cylinder in Haugal tole of Lalitpur sub-metropolis.
Reacting to the government decision of PDO suspension, the association had appealed to all the bottling plants to stop buying cooking gas from India from yesterday to put 'illegal' pressure on the government to roll back its decision.
A government-formed investigation team has said in its report that further investigation is required to look into the thickness of the metal of the gas cylinder. The team has, however, ruled out the possibility of the explosion being caused due to lack of hydro-static tests.
After receiving the report on Sunday, the government had called the NLPGIA for talks on the condition that HP gas clears the compensation to the victims’ families.
The association and the victims' family today afternoon agreed on Rs 4.1 million 'blood money', and the government put stamp on the illegal deal. "There is no law and order in the country," according to consumer rights activist Jyoti Baniya, who termed the government and association deal, an illegal compromise. "This is the height of lawlessness in the country," he said, adding that government has bowed down in front of illegal strike, which will encourage the people to break the law. "Anyone can pay compensation and kill people and go unpunished, what kind of governance is it?"
The government has lifted the ban on the import of HP gas cylinders going against the recommendation of a committee of experts it had hired to probe the incident of gas cylinder explosion last month in Lalitpur that killed three people.
The ministry – which had banned the import of HP Gas last week after the probe committee blamed the poor quality of cylinders for the explosion – lifted the ban saying that the probe committee's report did not define the defects in HP Gas cylinders in concrete terms.
However, the report had clearly mentioned that many details of the exploded HP Gas cylinder and its quality could not be traced and further expert inquiry may be required to arrive at a definite conclusion. It means that the government has bowed against the pressure from the bottlers.  Weak laws and government's unwillingness to take any action had emboldened the gas bottling companies in the country to unlawfully halt the import of cooking gas, an essential commodity.
The ministry has also cited the bottlers' willingness to provide Rs 4 million as compensation apart from 0.1 million provided by the HP gas to be divided among the families of the deceased, as the justification for lifting the ban.
The association and the ministry team sat for talks after the company handed over the Rs
4.1 million compensation to the victims’ families, according to the joint secretary of the ministry Anandaram Regmi. "The Ministry will write to Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) to issue the PDO to HP gas on a regular basis as earlier from tomorrow."
After the agreement, the bottlers have agreed to resume imports of cooking gas.

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