Will petrol pumps now be closed every Sunday to realize PM Modi’s vision?

Late evening on Monday, the 10th of April, social media was sent into a tizzy by one tweet by newspaper Business Standard:

Many who read this tweet and the accompanying headline, interpreted this move of shutting down petrol pumps on Sundays, to be a move aimed at reducing fuel consumption, which was suggested by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his radio address Mann Ki Baat a couple of weeks back. PM had appealed that people should try to avoid using vehicles for a day in week. Thus, readers assumed that either this (petrol pumps to be closed on Sundays) was a decision by the Government or it was based on a nudge by the Government.

Interestingly, Times of India too, among other media houses, reported this issue in a post titled ”Petrol pumps may take off on Sundays”. But the main reason given here was that the pumps were looking at this option if the Central Government didn’t hike the commission dealers get for fuel purchase. The article quoted a certain Ravi Shinde of the Petrol Dealers’ Association who claimed that the oil marketing companies had assured them of a revision in January but nothing had happened in that regard. It was a short piece and had no mention of Modi’s appeal for lower fuel consumption.

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The Times of India post was very short and the complete story was available in the Business Standard report itself. The (original) report claimed that an organization called Consortium of Indian Petroleum Dealers (CIPD) had asked its members to shut shop. This organisation claims to have an influence on 25,000 petrol pumps in Maharashtra and Southern India. The report also mentioned that the president of All India Petroleum Dealers’ Association Ajay Bansal said that they weren’t in favour of this decision as it might lead to widespread panic. He though reiterated that they had the same demands, i.e. to increase the dealer’s commission.

So where did PM Modi come into this? Business Standard carried a direct quote of the CIPD president A D Sathyanarayan, in which he reportedly had claimed that the move came in light of PM’s appeal. The issue about the demand for additional commission was also mentioned, but the main cause for the Sunday shut-down was given as PM Modi’s call.

Screenshot of original article

But strangely, as of today morning, the Business Standard report was “updated”. The opening paragraph now said this (emphasis added):

A section of petroleum dealers said they would shut their retail outlets every Sunday starting May 14. Many see this as a tactic to pressure government for higher commission.

The tweet and the headline of the original post had linked the move to PM’s appeal, but now the first paragraph itself alluded that this move could be a pressure tactic.

Moving further, the direct quote of CIPD president A D Sathyanarayan, where he had reportedly said the move is linked to the PM’s appeal was missing. Instead, the report now stated that the CIPD had stated the same:

The Consortium of Indian Petroleum Dealers (CIPD) on Monday asked members to shut shop on Sundays, in line with the prime minister’s vision to reduce fuel consumption.

This raises the question as to why was the direct quote made indirect? Why was the quote, which was initially attributed to a specific person, now attributed to the organisation? Was it not really a direct quote or did the quote have no basis in the 1st place?

It may be noted that the entire basis of linking this shut-down on Sundays to PM Modi was this very quote by Mr A D Sathyanarayan. Incidentally neither TOI nor any other media houses [1][2] which put out a report on the same issue, have any mention of this angle or the quote.

Also according to other reports A D Sathyanarayan hardly appears interested in fulfilling any sort of vision by the PM. Sathyanarayan has been quoted to be concerned about dealers getting some margin money based on a Apurva Chandra Committee report which was overlooked since 2011. The same man was at the helm of an agitation in January against accepting cards at Petrol Pumps as the dealers not the consumers had to bear merchant discount rate first levied by the HDFC.

To summarise, the Business Standard:

  1. Had initially promoted the Sunday shut-down linking it directly to the PM’s appeal, but has now “updated” the piece to now allude that this may be a pressure tactic
  2. Had initially claimed that a direct quote by Mr A D Sathyanarayan was the basis of this angle, has all but deleted the direct quote, and now attributes the same, indirectly, to the organisation rather than the person.

While the quote (which has not been reported by any other media house independently) may or may not be true, it appears even Business Standard agrees that their initial report was misleading, to put it mildly.

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