Dalit LPG tenderers win legal battle
(By K. Subramanian)
Salem, April 13 : More than 300 LPG tankers purchased by the Dalits in Nammakal zone, which were lying idle for the past three months, have resumed running thanks to the quick steps taken by Indian OIL, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited in issuing permits to the tanker owners. This follows a Madras High Court judgment in favour of the Dalits, who have invested more than Rs. 45 crore for the tankers.
A division bench of the Madras Hgigh Court, consisting Chief Justice N. K. Jain and Justice Swampath had dismissed the petition of the Southern Region Bulk LPG Transport Owners Association challenging the decision of the three oil corporations to grant permits to the SC/ST tenderers.
The three oil corporations floated the All India Common Tenders for Bulk LPG Transportation Contract in April 1999. Of the total tenders, 22.5 per cent was reserved for SC/STs(15 pc for SCs and 7.5 pc STs). Accordingly, the Letter of Intents (LoIs) were issued to the eligible SC/STs on September 12, 2000, for fabricating LPG tankers.
The LoIs were valid for 180 days from the date of issue and those who had their tankers ready on or before the deadline, i.e. March 12, 2001, were to be given the bulk LPG transport contract.
Possessed with the LoIs, the Dalit tenderers of Namakkal zone invested more than Rs. 45 crore to arrange 300 LPG tankers by borrowing huge sums from banks and financial institutions as loans at very high interest rates ranging from 18 to 24 per cent.
But the three oil giants refused the contract as its decision was challenged by the Southern Region Bulk LPG Transport Owners Association in the Madras High Court.
The Dalit tenderers, who were trapped between the association of tankers owners and the three oil corporations, formed the ‘Bulk LPG Transport Owners Welfare Association’ to fight for their cause.
Prof. R. Sokkalingam, the relief committee president of the association, pointed out that after the division bench of the Madras High Court delivered its verdict on April 2, the oil corporations started issuing permits to the Dalit LPG tenderers. The New Indian Express had carried a report on the plight of the Dalit LPG tenderers on February 13.