Anger and anxiety – the response of residents to the petrol price broadly fits into these two categories. They are angry because fuel prices have gone up several times in the last few months and anxious, for such a rise often translates in to an increase in the cost of a whole range of products and services.

K. Krishnan, general secretary, Bank Employees' Federation of India – Tamil Nadu, says: “It has a cascading effect… from the prices of vegetables and other essential food items to services, everything becomes expensive.”

R. Leelavathi, state secretary, Unorganised Workers' Federation, says the fuel price hike will, in fact, hit the labour class, particularly the daily wage labourers. “When the price of petrol goes up, employers do not increase the daily wage correspondingly. The price of essential commodities is bound to go up,” she says.

S. Chandran, secretary, Koyambedu Periyar Market Licenced Merchant's Association, says the transport costs, which have been rising, will go up further. “We will be forced to suffer losses, as we cannot pass on all the costs to the customer. Vegetable traders like us are going to have a very difficult time,” he says. But beyond a point, they would be forced to increase the price of vegetables to meet the escalating transportation costs.

It is not just individuals or traders who are in a fix. Institutions are also finding it hard to cope. M.Shenbaga Raj, principal of Kaligi Ranganathan Montford Matriculation School in Perambur says institutions like his cannot increase the school van fees. “We charge between Rs.750 and Rs.1,000 per month per student, depending on the distance. We cannot increase the school van fee now, we will have to wait till next year,” he says.

Keeping issues such as distance, time, cost and convenience in mind, office-goers and parents who have been car-pooling say it is a good option that more might want to consider.

Sandhya Sridhar, a resident of Kalakshetra Colony says: “Car pooling not only saves fuel, but also helps ease congestion on the roads. About five families in our locality have been doing this for nearly five years. If one of us drops the children at their school in Adyar in the morning, another parent picks up all of them in the evening.”

Sujatha Balakrishnan, assistant professor of commerce, Ethiraj College for Women, also recommends car-pooling for those who can coordinate well as a group and be punctual. “We were car-pooling to our college till sometime ago. It was a great time to bond with colleagues, and I liked driving. But now, I have switched to public transport and take a bus. It gives me some time to myself.”

Many professionals, particularly those travelling long distances, seem to be opting for public transport. Corporate communication executive Deepa Jayakumar, who commutes from Egmore to Perungalathur everyday, was driving to work till a month ago. Now, she takes the train from Egmore. “Many of my colleagues, including those holding senior positions, have now switched to suburban train,” she says.

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Meera SrinivasanJune 28, 2012

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