What went wrong?
The longest fuel queues in the history of Sri Lanka are now seen in the country. These queues can be traced back to the rapid decline in fuel supplies to the country due to the severe economic crisis the country suffering right now.
The economic crisis of Sri Lanka have resulted from a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing fuel costs, and the mismanagement of the government by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brothers.
For many people in the world, refueling a car is just a 2 to 3 minutes task but for Sri Lankans, it is a 2 to 3-day duty. The suffering starts with finding a filling station where the fuel is to be distributed.
The frustration of finding fuel
The vehicle owners have to check the official websites of CEYPETCO and LIOC, Sri Lanka’s leading fuel suppliers to find out what is the current status of the fuel in their area. The above companies publish the list of filling stations that will issue fuel stocks daily on their websites. In addition, the use of mobile phone apps can be seen in the discovery of fuel introduced by the government and some private companies.
Read More: New Helakuru Fuel App - The Best Way to Find Fuel
Once selected a filling station, it’s time to join the massive, never-ending fuel queue. Sometimes this queue is about 5 km long from the filling station. Most of the time many of the vehicles in these queues won’t get fuel the first time. But at most gas stations, vehicle owners do not leave the queue even if the filling station runs out of fuel. They just wait hopefully for the next fuel shipment.
There are people in these queues who works on daily basis jobs. So those people spend 2 or 3 days in fuel queues without earning anything and the family members and little ones at their home are often will be hungry and waiting.
The experience of the person in the fuel queue is not so pleasant either. Often they eat only one meal a day and wait for fuel to arrive. The suffering of motorcyclists is even harder to imagine.
They often stand from morning till night. When it rains they have no roof over their motorcycles to protect them. If the fuel does not arrive before the nightfall, they only have two options. Either stand until dawn or sleep like an animal on the sidewalk.
Not all are lucky enough to go back to their families
People join these fuel queues just to get some fuel for their vehicles. But unfortunately, not all of them are lucky enough to go back to their families alive. There have been a number of unfortunate deaths reported at fuel queues in Sri Lanka over the past few months.
Often those dead were people who were receiving treatment for heart disease or other chronic diseases. Spending days in the fuel queue without proper food or medicine had a huge impact on their health. The most recent incident was reported from Panadura.
Local News: Another Death in Panadura Fuel Queue
The burning fire beneath the ashes
The fuel queue is not a calm and pretty place. People who spend days queuing for fuel are very impatient and impulsive. So it only takes a few seconds for a minor argument to escalate into deadly attacks or property damage.
It has been a common sight near filling stations that some people try to get fuel regardless of the queue, while the people in the fuel queue try to stop them and often go so far as to bodily attack. The frustrated, restless people do not hesitate to argue or attack even the law enforcement officers.
Fuel trucks often arrive at filling stations in the middle of the night. In addition to the driver and his assistant, several armed soldiers also arrive on motorcycles. Recent attempts to loot fuel by stopping fuel trucks were reported from various areas of the country. Therefore, military personnel comes with fuel trucks to ensure the safety of the fuel and the driver.
After the fuel bowser arrives, the refueling begins. This usually takes about 2 hours. Even during this time, arguments and verbal fights are commonplace.
Once the unloading is completed, the issue of fuel for vehicles will begin. But the fuel release is subject to a limit. This means that even after waiting in line for several days, their entire fuel tank will not be filled.
Vehicles are refueled until the filling station runs out of fuel, and after it runs out of fuel, hot verbal fights can be heard again. After queuing for days, angry people often complain that filling station owners are hiding fuel.
Every Dark cloud has a silver lining
There are some heartwarming moments that can be seen in fuel queues that value humanity. Often people in this fuel queue spend a few days with neighboring vehicle owners they have never seen or talked to before. It is a common sight among the drivers of the fuel queue to share their food with the driver of the neighboring vehicle. At the same time, other vehicle owners volunteer to help those who fall ill while waiting in the queue.
Also, the neighbors in the area are tempted to treat the vehicle owners in the fuel queues with food and drink, which shows the humanity of Sri Lankans again. After all these queues are a prime example of the suffering of the same class of people in the same country.
The fuel crisis in Sri Lanka does not seem to be coming to an end recently. The fuel queues, which are getting longer day by day, have even started killing helpless Sri Lankans. When will this suffering of Sri Lankans end? What steps has the Sri Lankan government taken to resolve this crisis? And that is the beginning of a series of unanswered questions.