The announcement about the increase in the prices of petrol, diesel, cooking gas and kerosene gave jitters to many on Friday. From homemakers, traders to autorickshaw drivers and regular commuters, almost everyone seems apprehensive about coping with the additional financial burden from Saturday.

Understandably, those in the transport sector were a worried lot. Office-bearers of associations of lorries said the fuel price hike would have debilitating impact on the transport sector and a cascading impact on the prices of essential commodities. The new price of diesel in Chennai (per litre) will be Rs. 40.07 against Rs. 38.05.

R. Sugumar, spokesperson (Southern region) of All India Motor Transport Congress, said the sector was already in a crisis due to various factors such as labour shortage and increased toll charges. “We are suffering a loss of 10 per cent. This price hike will make it worse,” he said. Representatives of various truckers' associations would meet in New Delhi soon to discuss fuel price increase.

S. Yesudas, spokesperson of Chennai Metropolitan Transporting Agents Association, said, “We cannot increase the rent immediately as it depends on demand. Fuel cost, toll rates and labour charges account to 70 per cent of the expenditure.”

Cab operators said they were already operating on low margins. V. Elumalai, who rents vehicles to IT firms, said “the companies will increase the rent marginally, which will not help me to meet the expenses.”

The price hike has come as bad news for autorickshaw drivers, too. The new price of petrol will be Rs. 55.92 (Rs. 52.13).

P. Karunanidhi, president of Autorickshaw Worker's Union, said that the autorickshaw drivers in the city would soon protest against this fuel hike. R. Bhaskar, an autorickshaw driver at the Marina Beach felt that the new open permit system of the government would further increase the competition.

However, commuters have their own concerns. Kirti Kathuria, who commutes by autorickshaws, said, “The auto fares are higher in Chennai than other metros. They can't be justified in increasing their fares because of this increase in fuel, as they already overcharge.”

The situation at the petrol bunks, however, was well under control as no significant rush for purchasing the fuels at the old rates was visible at the facilities on Friday evening.

Petrol bunks in Royapettah, Anna Salai and Egmore, were around 6 p.m., hours after the announcement about the increase, seen catering for just a handful of customers. One petrol station in Egmore had stopped supplies citing power cut.

At this IOC outlet, two attendants at the entrance were turning away customers saying there was no electricity.

However, the ATM on the same premises was functioning and the lights were on in the first floor of the office building.

R. Pradeep of Chintadripet, who came to fill petrol, said, “They are lying. They say for the last 15 minutes there has been a power cut.”

Enquiries with nearby commercial establishments revealed that there was no disruption in power supply in the locality.

Metropolitan Transport Corporation on Friday procured 480 kilo litres of diesel, as against its average daily consumption of 220 kilo litres per day.

Sources in the MTC said every time there were indications of an increase in fuel price, the transport corporation would resort to such precautionary measure. “We did so twice this month. We decided to make the additional purchase as a precaution.”

V. Chitra, a homemaker in Mudichur said, “The increase in the price of kerosene will compound our problem, what with the restricted supply from the ration shop''. From Saturday, a litre of kerosene will cost nearly Rs. 3 more over the existing price of Rs. 8. 40.

A.G. Sampath of East Tambaram said that the dependence of households on LPG is high and the increase of over Rs. 36 per cylinder in Chennai is bound to hit their budgets. There has to be greater usage of electric and solar-powered kitchen equipment.” Radhika Rammohan, member of a group that runs an organic store, also felt that this might be a good time for people to consider alternative sources of energy.

“I usually try to optimise LPG consumption. I feel we could all much better, not only from an economics point of view, but also in terms of energy efficiency,” she says. “In fact, I recently found out about biogas units, which seem economical for individual apartments and complexes,” Ms. Rammohan adds.

(With inputs from R. Sujatha, K. Lakshmi, Vasudha Venugopal, K. Manikandan and Meera Srinivasan)

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