CNG crisis puts autorickshaw drivers in a fix

Fuel shortage, lack of cylinder calibration centres in Thiruvananthapuram affecting livelihood of drivers
CNG autorickshaws
CNG autorickshawsPhoto | Express

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The deepening crisis in the supply of compressed natural gas (CNG) has left thousands of autorickshaw operators in Thiruvananthapuram in a precarious situation. With around 4,000 CNG-powered autorickshaws operating in the district, drivers who opted for these environment-friendly vehicles are now facing severe hardships due to fuel shortage.

On Thursday, hundreds of autorickshaw drivers staged a protest in front of the CNG plant of AG&P Pratham, the company responsible for CNG distribution in the region. Lack of cylinder calibration centres in the district is another major issue faced by the drivers.

AG&P Pratham is struggling to bridge the widening gap between supply and demand. This has resulted in long queues at refuelling stations, with drivers often waiting for hours to fill their tanks.

AG&P Pratham is struggling to bridge the widening gap between supply and demand. This has resulted in long queues at refuelling stations, with drivers often waiting for hours to fill their tanks..

Tiji K Thomas, a CNG autorickshaw driver, said that they have been struggling for several weeks now. There are only five refuelling stations in the district. Tiji alleged that one of the five stations functioning at Vazhayila was shut down.

“The crisis worsened after mid-April and all drivers were forced to come to the Veli plant to fill fuel. Sometimes the queue extends from Kochuveli to All Saints College. We waste hours to get our tanks filled,” said Tiji. He said that even after two years, the company has failed to open more fuel stations in the district to meet the growing demand.

Another major challenge being faced by the drivers is the lack of cylinder calibration centres. “Only one centre is available in the state and we have to calibrate our fuel tanks once in three years. We need to get it certified to run the autorickshaws or get fuel from the stations. Dealers are ready to take our cylinders to Alappuzha if we pay a hefty amount but it will take one week to get back the cylinders. This will affect our livelihood,” he added.

Former mayor and district secretary of Auto Taxi Union, K Sreekumar, said that the company should immediately address the issue.

“We intervened in the matter irrespective of political party affiliation as these drivers are struggling for survival. Also, the fuel stations at Veli Plant are still operating till 9 pm. The service should be made available 24 x 7 just like normal fuel stations,” he said.

Meanwhile, an official release issued by AG&P Pratham said that they are actively working to resolve the issue within the next 10 days. “To address this, we are augmenting additional CNG capacity with immediate plans of opening more CNG stations to meet the increased demand,” stated the release.

More CNG stations

An official release by AG&P Pratham stated that they are actively working to resolve the issue within the next 10 days. It stated that a company-owned CNG filling station has become operational in Chackai and that they are planning to open more stations in Parassala, Varkala, Thonnakkal, Nalanchira, Nanniyod and Peroorkada by the end of 2024

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