KATHMANDU, Oct 10: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of legislature-parliament has criticized the lack of seriousness on the part of the government about resolving acute supply of petroleum products and other daily essentials.
Speaking at the meeting of PAC on Friday, lawmakers even suggested the government to clamp state of emergency to smoothen supply of petroleum products and daily essentials. They expressed their dissatisfaction on measures taken by the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies to resolve the issue.
At the meeting, Minister of State for Commerce and Supplies Giri Bahadur KC said they were helpless and unable to take action against handful of people pelting stones at security personnel at the border points.
Finding neither officials of Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS) nor Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) serious toward resolving the issue, lawmakers advised the government to declare state of emergency to normalize supplies, stating that "a handful of people cannot be allowed take the country hostage". They also urged the government to initiate diplomatic efforts with India to resolve the issue.
PAC is the first parliamentary committee that has started discussion on the impact of undeclared economic blockade imposed by India.
"The situation is worsening with every passing day. It seems that we are in a situation of statelessness," lawmaker Pashupati Chaulagain said. "Therefore the government should declare state of emergency and open trade points."
PAC has also asked the government to clarify whether it is mere obstruction of supply or a blockade enforced by India.
"If it is a blockade enforced by India, we need to raise the issue in international forums as every landlocked country has right to freedom of transit," he added.
Lawmakers Ram Hari Khatiwada, Bhanubhakta Dhakal and Dhanaraj Gurung also advised the government to declare state of emergency to resume normal supplies at border points.
Khatiwada also said that the government should formally inform general public about the ongoing blockade.
ONLY DEPUTIES SHOWED UP
Though PAC had invited Minister for Commerce and Supplies Sunil Bahadur Thapa, Chief Secretary Somlal Subedi, Commerce Secretary Naindra Prasad Upadhaya and Finance Secretary Suman Sharma to attend meeting, they sent only their deputies in the meeting.
Instead of Chief Secretary, Prem Kumar Rai, secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Minister, attended the meeting. Similarly, officiating commerce secretary Jibaraj Koirala attended the meeting in place of Upadhaya.
Speaking at the meeting, lawmaker Khatiwada lambasted senior bureaucrats for not keeping the ongoing supply obstruction in priority.
"We had expected that the government is taking the issue seriously. But we were wrong," PAC Chairman Janardan Sharma sad at the end of the meeting.
Meanwhile, PAC has decided to invite Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, Deputy Prime Minister Bamdev Gautam, Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey and Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat as well as all the parliamentary party leaders to discuss the issue at 11 am on Saturday, after officials of MoCS and NOC failed to come up with concrete plans and strategies to resolve the crisis.
PAC also directed the government to provide needful support to NOC to select new supplier of petroleum products.
NOC had announced global tender on Thursday to supply petrol, diesel, kerosene, aviation turbine fuel, and liquefied petroleum (LP) gas.
WE CAN BRING LP GAS FROM CHINA: BOTTLERS
Speaking at the meeting, Shiva Ghimire, president of Nepal LP Gas Industry Association, said they have seen the possibility of importing LPG from a private bottling plant at Nyalam which lies 32 kilometers away from Khasa.
"Though the cylinders they use are of smaller size, weighing only 12 kg, and have valves at the side of cylinders, we have confirmed that we can refill 30,000 to 40,000 cylinders in one lot and bring them to Nepal," Ghimire said, adding that they can supply LP gas in the capital city and adjoining areas for Dashain if the government provides needful facilitation at the Chinese customs office.
According to Ghimire, the cost, however, will go up by around Rs 600 per cylinder. He said a proposal to import LPG from China has already been submitted to NOC.
"We can collect empty cylinders from Kathmandu and send them to Nyalam for refilling," he said, adding that his association had lobbied hard to release bullets stuck at the customs points along Nepal-India border. "We were forced to look for alternatives after our efforts went in vain," he added.
Public buses will get fuel: noc
Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has said people looking to travel to their hometowns for Dashain celebration needn't worry as it has sufficient diesel in stock.
Gopal Khadka, managing director of NOC, said he expects fuel availability in Kathmandu Valley to ease once people start leaving for their hometowns to celebrate Dashain.
"Though we have received Expression of Interest (EoI) from different parties to import petroleum products, they cannot bring immediately as fuel has to be brought via land route through India," he said, admitting that NOC lacks any strategic plans to resolve the ongoing fuel crisis.
Published on: My Republica (Oct 10, 2015)