A deficit budget stares people in their faces as in less than a month, prices of petrol and diesel have been hiked again.
From Saturday, a litre of petrol will cost Rs. 1.50 more and diesel will be costlier by 45 paise a litre, excluding VAT. Until Friday night, a litre of petrol was sold at Rs. 70.26 and diesel at Rs. 50.68.
Even as city residents struggle to cope with the earlier price hike, the revision has added to their burden. A newspaper hawker in Triplicane said, “Every time I stop to deliver papers, I have to turn off the ignition. I do use more fuel and it hurts my income.”
The average household budget now has to accommodate increased prices of vegetables, groceries and even water. Residents may have to pay more for water as private water suppliers are mulling a rate hike.
G. Kanagaraj of Chennai Private Water Suppliers Association said they had to spend more on spare parts and sourcing water from borewells. Consumers are charged around Rs. 900 to Rs. 1,500 per trip, depending on the distance.
Autorickshaw drivers too are worried. “Our daily expenses have gone up but income has been falling drastically,” said S. Apannu, south district secretary of Centre of Indian Trade Union. “We now charge a flat rate but this cannot continue. The minimum rate should be made Rs. 30. We want subsidy for petrol and gas, and a tax exemption,” he said.
The hike is hurting small scale units too, especially those that use petroleum by-products. “We cannot increase the price of our products as competition is high,” said an entrepreneur in Ambattur industrial estate.
Fewer arrivals of vegetables have already pushed up prices but this is likely to go up further with the diesel price hike.
Lorry owners said as business was dull they were unable to increase freight charges. About 15,000 vehicles are operated daily in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts.
R. Sugumar, regional president of Confederation of Surface Transport, Tamil Nadu, said production had come down owing to frequent power cuts.
“We have not hiked transportation charges in the past six months. Export has also come down as the number of containers coming to Chennai Port has fallen by half compared to last year,” he said.
Mr. Sugumar said the State government should waive sales tax to decrease the burden on lorry owners and also help in regulating vegetable price. Farmers or lorry owners do not benefit from price hike of essential commodities, he said. “We plan to meet the Prime Minister to discuss the issue and form a committee to decide on price rise,” he said.