File photo used for representation
NEW DELHI: State-run oil companies are rushing additional fuel supplies to Ladakh and have tanked up storage depots in the northern region to meet increased demand from the defence forces, deployed in large numbers as the deadly border stand-off with China continues in the Galwan valley and Pangong Tso (lake in Ladakhi) areas of the newly-created federal territory.
The oil companies have also deployed aviation bowsers in several locations, essentially for easy refuelling of helicopters being used extensively by the forces. Jet fuel stocks have also been beefed up as the air force has moved fighter aircraft to forward locations.
Transporters said more than 100 tankers are leaving daily from IndianOil’s Jammu, Jalandhar and Sangrur storage terminals carrying diesel, jet fuel, kerosene and petrol to Kargil, Leh and other forward areas. Tankers are also being sent from Hindustan Petroleum’s refinery in Punjab’s Bhatinda.
The despatches are 10-12% more than the number of tankers loaded daily for the annual exercise of building stockpiles in Kargil and Leh, which began in April. These stockpiles keep life from freezing over in Ladakh during the long and harsh winters, lasting up to eight months, when walls of snow snap road links with the rest of the country.
As reported by TOI on April 7, the oil companies had a target of moving a total of 150,000 kilolitres of liquid fuels and 3,300 tonne of LPG this year for both civilian consumption and defence forces. Oil company sources said because of the border situation they are trying to “maximise” tanker despatches before the onset of monsoon, which disrupts traffic on the main Jammu-Srinagar-Kargil-Leh and Manali-Leh routes used for sending supplies to Ladakh.
The sources said Leh and Kargil depot already had spillover stocks from last year. Muted civilian demand in the absence of tourist flow due to the coronavirus pandemic is also helping boost supplies for the forces. Yet, executives managing the operation have to walk the extra mile to avoid delays in tanker movement due to the Srinagar-Leh route being declared out of bounds for civilian traffic – except for essentials – and coronavirus protocols.
Some 20 Indian soldiers, including a colonel, were killed in recent clashes with Chinese troops at Galwan, marking the worst-ever border skirmish between the two neighbours since 1975. Reports quoting Indian intercepts of Chinese radio communications have indicated about 45 casualties on the Chinese side. Beijing has not contested these numbers.