It is distressing that there is a depraved practice time and again among traders and suppliers to increase prices of consumer goods, obstruct supplies or create an artificial shortage of such products in the market. This type of unwanted tendency often leaves common consumers in the lurch. Profit seeking people seem to have taken an undue advantage of an unexpected rise in prices of the petroleum products in the domestic and global markets following the escalation of the Russia-Ukraine war. Fuel dealers and transporters had even resorted to shutting down their pumps and halting the transportation of petroleum products across the country to pile pressure on the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) to fulfil their demands. The dealers had wanted their commission rates raised considerably. Such an unfortunate move on the part of the agitating entrepreneurs involved in the transportation and distribution of petroleum products had really caused a lot of inconveniences to the consumers.
A large number of vehicles, including motorcycles, were seen in long queues in front of various petrol pumps run by the Nepali Army, Nepal Police and Armed Police Force in the Kathmandu Valley. Many consumers were involved in panic buying of fuels and other consumer goods due to an uncertainty about a smooth fuel supply. Taking such a scenario into serious consideration, Minister for Home Affairs Bal Krishna Khand had to instruct the responsible authorities and the petroleum entrepreneurs to ensure a smooth supply of fuels and other commodities. An intervention of the state is necessary to deal with the unforeseen market anomalies and protect the common consumers from such problems. However, the fuel supply situation is now returning to normalcy gradually with the fresh signing of an agreement between the NOC and petrol pump operators.
As per the deal, the petroleum dealers' commission and the demand for adjusting transportation fare of cooking gas are going to be addressed within a week while other demands related to the petroleum business will be met by the end of upcoming May. The frequent raise of such demands might force the NOC to adjust fuel prices. With a rise in transportation costs, everything becomes dearer. So, it is the consumers who are bound to bear the brunt of fuel price hike. In view of this, Minister Khand had directed the Chief District Officers of all the 77 districts to monitor the market and send a report to his ministry through the concerned market monitoring committees. He also asked the DAOs to take action against the wrongdoers in accordance with laws. The market monitoring committees are required to monitor the supply of consumer goods, ease the supply and control the price hike in coordination with the business community’s umbrella organisation in the respective districts.
Since consumers have been reeling from these problemsfrequently, there should be a strong permanent mechanism in place to tackle such issues promptly. Meanwhile, with repeated revisions of fuel prices in the past couple of weeks, the Department of Transport Management (DoTM) has reviewed the fare structure of the public transport operating in more than one province. The new fare has come into effect since Monday. The fare of passenger buses and other vehicles has gone up by 10 per cent while the fare of heavy vehicles carrying goods has been increased by 13-15 per cent. The government has taken this decision in response to the demand raised by transport entrepreneurs. As there is high possibility of consumer price hike, the responsible bodies must remain watchful.