The state-owned petroleum supply monopoly – Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) – is under fire for not being able to properly distribute whatever amount of fuels it has been importing since the blockade at customs points started early in September. It is learnt that NOC Managing Director Gopal Bahadur Khadka issued an internal circular to his depot chiefs not to disclose amount of petroleum products it has imported from India, which has slashed the supply of the essential commodities citing disturbances at Nepal-India border areas though almost all the customs points except Birgunj have seen no obstruction from within the country. The Managing Director’s circular will surely raise some eyebrows. He has not given any convincing reason why he issued such a circular though volume of petroleum products has recently increased over the weekend after the government tabled a Bill to make amendment to the new Constitution to address concerns of the agitating Madhesi parties. Although NOC has not disclosed about the amount of fuels it has imported it is estimated that 2,500 kilolitres of petrol and about 20,000 kilolitres of diesel are in stock across the country. But the NOC has not distributed petrol to private vehicles since Tihar.
It should be noted that the NOC and Ministry of Supplies had promised to update the petroleum products imported on daily basis. It had also announced to develop a text messaging system stating where and when the two-wheelers and private vehicles would be able to get the fuels. But it has stopped developing it without any apparent reason. Even though NOC has stopped distributing the fuels to the public, the private vehicles are seen plying in the streets of the Kathmandu Valley almost as in normal time. How come it has been so? One can easily presume that the two-wheelers and private vehicles are buying petrol from black markets which have proliferated in every nook and corner of the capital city where the law-enforcing agencies are seen patrolling all the areas.
Police on Tuesday impounded a tanker distributing petrol to the public without the knowledge either of NOC officials or Nepal Bureau of Standard and Metrology which monitors the quality of fuels and other commodities. Birat Petroleum, a privately-owned company which won a controversial contract from NOC to import petroleum products but later withdrew it after much public criticism, was found to be selling petrol in drums and jerry cans. This is a case in point which tells much about the rampant practice of unscrupulous business being done in petroleum products when the country is reeling under fuel crisis. A private company cannot dare indulge in such transactions without the knowledge of the concerned agencies and law-enforcement body. It is the citizens’ fundamental right to know about how much amount of fuels has been imported and how it is being distributed. The NOC chief cannot escape from his public responsibility for which he has been appointed. NOC must do its business in a transparent and justifiable manner. The ministry concerned could do its duty better too.
The news of several Nepalese diplomatic missions being without a chief at the same time is no longer important news in Nepal. But keeping the top vacancies unfilled for a long time is not a good thing from any point of view. Whether the proliferating number of Nepalese diplomatic missions abroad can be defended in all cases is open to debate, but once the missions are established they should not be without a chief at any time.
Since the multiparty politics came again in the country in 1990, it has led to unstable governments and coalition governments. Even a party with less than a dozen parliamentary seats came more than once to head a government, thanks to the intensified quarrels of the big parties. To add to it, the culture of division of various lucrative posts not only among the coalition partners, but the demand by the opposition for a few of them as its quota has introduced a bad political culture. Sometimes, even the various factions within a single party fail to agree on a single candidate, and the appointment remains undecided. There are other factors too, including the availability of prestigious appointments as a reward for making fat ‘donations’ to political parties or their leaders.
The Himalayan Times, January 1, 2016