Without fuel, everything comes to a standstill. So to reduce its consumption for a while we have to give up something from our side.
--BY ARJUNMOHAN BHATTARAI
Fuel includes diesel, petrol, kerosene, gas, and even aviation fuel, all of which we import, and which are sold through Nepal Oil Corporation. When there is no fuel, the factory does not run, the movement of people is stopped, and everything comes to a standstill. So to reduce the consumption of fuel, for a while, we can all give up something from our place.
The operation and management of the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC), the sole distributor of petroleum products in the Nepali market, should be immediately reformed. The government must be strict in this regard. Necessary actions should be taken without any prejudice. As the NOC is in severe crisis, it should provide only salary to its employees and cut allowances and other benefits until it is financially comfortable. As the NOC has more employees than needed, the number should be reduced according to its need.
Hundreds of reform measures can be implemented without spending money. The commission and transportation fare should be reviewed considering the cost of fuel tankers, petrol pump operators and gas companies and gas distributors.
In a bid to reduce the consumption of fossil fuel, the government should bring policies to encourage the use of electric vehicles. Likewise, traffic management should be reviewed to give priority to public buses on the road. The place of boarding and disembarking of public transport should be specified as well as the departure and arrival time of buses should be made public so that people are encouraged to leave their personal vehicles at home and use public transport.
Many people choose to ride motorbikes to reach their workplace because they know they won’t be able to reach their workplace on time if public transport is used. In order to address this problem, the authorities can start two types of services of public transport - local and express. This will enable the office workers to reach their destination on time and increase the use of public transport while reducing the consumption of petroleum products significantly. Strong will of the political leadership is needed to make this possible.
At the same time, instead of criticising leaders and government employees for everything, it is important for us, responsible citizens, to introspect what can be done for the country. This is the right time to contribute something to the nation. We all need to make a concerted effort to save the country in times of crisis.
If we start a lot of work at once, it doesn't work. So we have to move forward gradually. For a while, we all need to be patient and tolerant. After a while, the economy will improve. This crisis is not only a challenge but also an opportunity.
By reducing taxes, the price of fuel may be cheaper, but the crisis will not go away. As fuel becomes cheaper, it is natural that its consumption will increase. Leaders criticise the NOC when they are in the opposition, but they do nothing to bring about reforms at the corporation when they are in the government. This is because they won’t be able to get kickbacks if the NOC is made transparent.
Let’s make a commitment to reduce the use of imported luxury goods. Let's introduce austerity measures for our government offices. If news reports are to be believed, even government employees using electric vehicles take fuel coupons from their offices. Such tendencies should be stopped. In fact, distribution of fuel coupons should be reduced for the time being.
Also, the government should encourage people to use electric stoves to reduce consumption of liquefied petroleum gas. We people should also be responsible. Likewise, the government offices should practise frugality, and the head of the office should play an important role in reducing unnecessary waste.
(The author is the executive director of the Nepal Advertising Association)