Motorists queued up at petrol bunks last evening to stock up before petrol price hike set in

When a flurry of vehicles approached various petrol bunks on Wednesday evening, employees at the bunk knew what was on the minds of most motorists. After news of price hike spread, motorists rushed to the nearest petrol bunk to make the best use of the remaining hours before the hike in prices kicked in at midnight.

“It is infuriating and scary to think from tomorrow I will have to spend more than double on my monthly petrol expenses. These people have reduced vehicles to be just used when you go out for buying vegetables,” said an angry Mohammed Azeem, who works as a salesman. “Salaries don't increase, but prices do, so frequently,” he said with a visible disdain.

Standing behind him, were at least 50 other vehicles whose drivers looked equally hassled. “I rushed here as soon as I got a text message about the hike. I forwarded it to all my friends. Every petrol bunk on the way was crowded,” said G. Harish, waiting for his turn.

All four petrol bunks on West Cott Road on Royapettah witnessed an unusual crowd after 7.30 p.m. A worker there, M. Panneer Selvam said, “We have exhausted nearly 200 litres in a few hours. Managing the crowd is very difficult even though there are three queues. Everyone seems to be in a hurry.”

At around 8 p.m., motorists started protesting in Nesapakkam after some of the bunks downed shutters. People claimed that the outlets closed after news of the petrol price hike broke out. Chaos was also reported from certain areas in Adyar.

The traffic on Spurtank Road slowed down due to the heavy rush at a petrol bunk in the vicinity. There were easily over 200 vehicles waiting to get their petrol tanks filled. The vehicles also spilled on to the road. “My bike gives a mileage of 40 kms per litre and I travel nearly 100 kms every day. I will end up spending half my salary on petrol bills alone. I don't know how to manage the expenses with my monthly income of Rs. 10,000,” said S. Murali, a marketing executive.

Meanwhile, Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) officials said that bus fares would not be affected. A member of the Koyambedu Market Management Committee said that the prices of vegetables would not increase unless diesel price too, was hiked.

The price of petrol has been a constant worry for a while now. “Price hike has happened at least 12 times in the past few months but this is the steepest. There have to be major cuts in the budget now,” said K. Lakshminarayan, a banker, who owns a bike.

The price of petrol in the city has increased by Rs. 7.98 and a litre now costs Rs. 77. 53, according to information on the Indian Oil website. As earlier fuel price hikes have typically led to an increase in the prices of essential commodities and also, auto fares, many dread the cascading effect this time.

“Those who have their own vehicles might complain, but the worst affected are people who commute by call taxis and autorickshaws. A return journey from Thiruvanmiyur to Anna Nagar will cost at least Rs. 300 more,” said M. Kalaiselvan, who runs a call taxi service. M. Shankar, an auto driver, says there is no option but to increase the minimum fare by at least Rs. 20. “It is time the government provided petrol at a subsidised price, like they offer diesel to fishermen and factories. We will find it very difficult otherwise.”

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