ATMs, petrol pumps run dry amidst uncertainty

With no end to uncertainty and speculations, panic struck people on Saturday thronged markets across Kashmir where ATMs and petrol pumps have started running dry due to unprecedented rush.

Most of the petrol pumps shut the operations as massive rush of motorists jostling to get petrol and diesel filled.

The level of panic is to an extent that families who have marriage ceremonies scheduled in coming days are uncertain of the plans.

Many families at the last minute have modified their plans and decided to celebrate the weddings with complete austerity.

“Everyone is saying that something is going to happen. Since no one knows what lies in future, it is important to stock up baby food, important medicines and essentials,” said Masarat Jan, a resident of Hazratbal. 

People in large numbers were seen thronging vegetable, poultry and medicine shops. “Whether or not something will happen is secondary but we cannot take a chance. I purchased sufficient amount of milk and vegetables for atleast last a week,” said Basit Ahmad of Hyderpora.

Meanwhile, many petrol pump dealers said they have exhausted their stocks due to “panic buying” by people adding that petrol pumps which has stocks available were selling it “cautiously”. 

Many Srinagar-based petrol pumps shut down their business and stopped providing petrol on Saturday asking for “police protection” saying they suffered huge losses due to “unruly customers,”.

A petrol pump dealers said “decision to close their outlets has been taken in the wake of incidents of appropriation of fuel leading to equipment damages and manhandling of staff by mobs on Friday”.

However, he said sales of fuel was restored at many  on Saturday evening. Even as people ran from pillar to post to purchase petrol, administration claimed there was sufficient stock of fuel available.

Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Ahmad Khan said  there was sufficient stock of petrol available. “There is nothing such as shortage of fuel. Enough stocks are available,” said Khan.

Meanwhile, adding to the panic, an order issued by Department of Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs ( FCSCA) asked all depots to expedite lifting of foodgrains but  “not to distribute it till further orders”. 

However, officials said enough stocks of foodgrain are available with the department. “It is a normal procedure to expedite picking up of food grains as we prepare to introduce new stocks. It is an old order which has gone viral and has no significance now,” said Muhammad Qasim Wani, director, FCSCA. “People should not panic as we have abundant supplies of essentials available,” said Wani.

Shahr-e Khass Traders Coordination chairman Nazir Ahmad Shah urged management of Jammu and Kashmir Bank to keep open the branches on Sunday in wake of the situation.

“We urge the J&K Bank management to keep open its branches in Srinagar in view of the emerging chaotic situation. We also seek action against petrol pump dealers who of their own keep the pumps open or shut them,” said Nazir Ahmad Shah.