The release of the election schedule on Sunday has put the brakes on a number of activities that were to be undertaken by government-owned enterprises. One such project is the process of allotting petrol pumps across the country by state oil marketing companies (OMCs) according to the plan to double the existing retail network.
The OMCs — Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation — were in the process of appointing dealers for about 78,000 fuel stations under new guidelines which allow individuals or legal entities such as companies and trusts to obtain licenses to operate more than one pump. So far, they have declared winners for about a third of the locations advertised and are now verifying the credentials of winners. In all, 90 per cent of locations received interest with 50 per cent getting multiple applications and 40 per cent of these just one bid.
However, the companies have decided not to pursue the work further in line with past election practices where a model code of conduct bars any major policy decision or promise by the government until the conclusion of polls to prevent any undue advantage to the ruling party. The state oil companies are learnt to have sought clarity from the oil ministry on the appointment of petrol pump dealers with the latter advising them to take up the issue with the Election Commission.
Sources say the decision has been taken keeping in mind past controversies. Also, appointing new dealers during elections exposes companies to accusations and can put all such appointments in peril should there be a change in government, they said.
Most petrol pumps in the country are operated by public sector firms. Indian Oil Corporation, which already has 27,377 petrol pumps across the country, has invited bids for setting up 26,982 more across India. BPCL will add 15,802 outlets to its existing strength of 14,592 and HPCL would add 12,865 petrol pumps to its existing tally of 15,287. In the private sector, Nayara Energy Ltd, formerly Essar Oil Ltd, has the highest number of outlets with 4,895 spread across India.
OMCs receive flurry of applications
State-run oil marketing companies are processing the appointment of dealers for about 78,000 fuel stations under new guidelines. So far, they have declared winners for about a third of the locations advertised and were in the process of verifying the credentials of winning bidders.