The steep hike in petrol will make a significant dent in the household budget. A commuter travelling to work may have to set aside anything between Rs. 300 and Rs. 1,000 (depending on the vehicle's mileage and usage) for monthly fuel expenses. The hike will be more painful for those depending on autorickshaws and call taxis.
For working couple G. Vasudevan and Vanitha, the monthly expenditure on transport comes to about Rs. 2,500. From Triplicane, Vasudevan drops Vanitha in T. Nagar and then heads to Pallavaram. “A lot of petrol is wasted due to route diversions and waiting at signals,” says Vasudevan, who expects an increase of Rs. 1,500 in monthly fuel expenditure. “We will have to postpone our plan of buying a car. The frequent price hikes are messing up our saving and investment plans,” says Vanitha.
R. Arun, a resident of Adyar who works in an IT company on OMR says he spends nearly Rs. 3,500 on petrol and maintenance of his bike, every month. “A bike gives me the flexibility to travel, but it is coming at a high price now. I may have to rely on office-arranged transport or move someplace closer to work.”
The most concerned are people such as N. Parthasarathy, a 72-year-old resident of Madipaakam. “All of us in the interior areas of Nanganallur and Adambakkam depend on call taxis because neither autos nor buses ply in these interior lanes. One call taxi operator informed us today that he would charge Rs. 200, instead of the minimum Rs. 125 per 4 km. We depend entirely on our pension and this rise will confine us to our houses,” he said
Autorickshaw drivers defend their decision to increase the minimum fare. For years, the government did not respond to their demand to fix a rate, says S. Apannu, president of Centre of Indian Trade Unions. “We wanted a prepaid system like in other States. That has not happened,” he said.
AITUC general secretary J. Sheshasayanam said that his job was at stake. “As our livelihood will be affected, we might have to consider going on strike. For the past 30 years I have been driving an auto. I started driving in 1984 and only four times since, did the government revise the minimum fare.”
“We bring revenue to the government. Professionals like painters, three-wheeler mechanics and liners who depend on us will also increase prices,” says K. Parthiban, secretary of Adyar Auto and Taxi Drivers Association.
Autorickshaw drivers say they are forced to hike the minimum fare because a hike in petrol price is invariably followed by a hike in price of automobile oil too. M. Kannan, president of Tamil Nadu Petroleum Dealers' Association, said a hike in price of auto oil is in the pipeline and would be increased soon.