Mumbai: Since the last two to three days, the number of autos on the street was less. This is because most of them had queued up in front of compressed natural gas (CNG) pumps. There was shortage of autos on both western and eastern line drivers had to wait for hours together to fill gas.
Due to lack of CNG pumps, auto drivers have limited options and are forced to wait their turn to fill gas. At some places, the queues ran up to over a kilometer. Autos were seen waiting on both sides of the road.
“We spend two to three hours just waiting in a queue to refill our tanks. Despite this, we are getting only 40 to 50 per cent gas,” said Bharat Mehta, an auto driver.
Normally, an auto’s tank capacity is around 4kg. However, due to shortage in supply, the tanks are filled only 1.5kg to 2kg. Due to this, they are forced to refuel their tanks after five to six hours, forcing them to stand in serpentine queues.
“CNG is ideally supplied at a pressure of 210 bar. However, now it is being supplied at just 140 to 150 bar. There seems to be insufficient gas. This is leading to long queues outside CNG stations. Due to this, people are not getting autos easily as there is a shortage,” said Thampi Kurien, autorickshaw union leader.
Meanwhile, auto unions have been demanding more CNG stations as there is an increase in demand for autos since lockdown has been eased and trains are also not available for everyone. There has also been a rise in the number of privately-owned vehicles that run on CNG.
However, officials from MGL said owing to the festive season, there are more private vehicles operating. “There has been a sudden jump in demand for CNG. The problem is more the suburbs where it takes time for the gas supply to reach and pressure is less,” said an MGL official.
There are around 2.60 lakh autos in the city. The government’s failure to curtail the rising petrol and diesel prices over the last few months has played a role in the rise in CNG vehicles.
Auto drivers and permit holders feel this will lead to an increase wait time at CNG pumps. Before the pandemic, they used to wait for 10 to 15 minutes daily. MGL authorities claim they are doing everything to increase the number of CNG stations across the city and parts of MMR like Thane, Navi Mumbai and Raigad. The MGL has around 275 CNG filling stations and expect to add 100 more this financial year, depending on the availability of land.