Fuel crisis has forced many to use public transport but situation begins to improve. The number of call taxis seen on the roads had come down visibly.

On the sixth day of the fuel crisis on Tuesday, residents of the city began to get used to the long queues in front of petrol bunks. Roads were largely empty of vehicles while motorists lined up at the few petrol bunks that were open. The situation, however, got better in the evening as some bunks opened their gates to motorists.

The number of call taxis seen on the roads had come down visibly. Padmavathi Raghavan, a resident of Mahalakshmi Nagar in Adambakkam, said that for nearly a week all the petrol bunks in her area were closed. “I called a call taxi operator who told me that he could not provide me a vehicle as there was no diesel. There are old people in my family and I have to take them to the doctor,” she said.

Buses were crowded and the number of people commuting by train increased significantly. According to divisional railway manager of Southern Railways, S. Anantharaman, ever since the price of petrol was hiked last week, there has been a 15 to 20 per cent increase in the number of people who use the MRTS and the suburban train service in the last week. “Usually the MRTS transports one lakh people and around 12 lakh people use the suburban EMU services. Today when I was travelling by the engine through Mambalam I found that the crowds were similar to what we get during weekends,” he said.

As for the Metropolitan Transport Corporation, the scarcity of petrol and diesel has meant that buses are moving freely on the road. According to a senior official, there was a slight increase in the number of passengers travelling by MTC on Monday. “But that is usual for Mondays. We have to wait till Tuesday night to find out if there has been a marked increase,” the official said.

Vegetables, fish prices stable

Fuel shortage has not yet affected the Koyambedu wholesale market. However, vendors say that sales may get severely affected if the crisis continued on Wednesday. The prices of most vegetables were high because of low yield and dry season for the past month. On Tuesday, the market received 300-400 lorry loads of produce.

While beans cost Rs. 40 per kg in the wholesale market, it is priced at Rs. 70 in retail stores. A kilo of carrot and beetroot costs Rs. 32 and Rs. 20 respectively at Koyambedu. At retail outlets the vegetables were sold with a margin of nearly Rs. 20 more.

M. Thenraj, who runs a grocery store in Ayanavaram, said the prices have not been affected so far because the market is receiving the same supply. “I have managed to transport vegetables till now. If the shortage continues, I will have problems in procuring produce,” he said.

The ban on fishing using trawlers ended on Tuesday night but only 200 of the 700 trawlers plan to venture into the sea. M.E. Raghupathi, president of Mechanised Boat Fishermen Welfare Association, said, “We need a minimum of 1,000 litres of diesel for a three-day trip into the sea. For a weeklong trip, we need around 3,000 litres of diesel. Since the petrol bunks of the Tamil Nadu Fisheries Development Corporation would start supplying fuel only from June we have to source it from private bunks. Many of us cannot afford it nor will we get such a huge volume.” This will only mean that the price of fish will remain high during the next few days.

‘Small dealers ignored'

President of Tamil Nadu Petroleum Dealers' Association M. Kannan blames the fuel crisis on panic buying. According to him, all the 300 bunks in the city remained open. “If any bunk was shut then it is because the companies did not supply,” he said. “Companies would like dealers to lift a full load of 12,000 litres to 20,000 litres but smaller petrol bunks would require only half that amount. Even if such bunk owners ask for a combination of diesel and petrol it is not supplied. The companies do not take care of low volume dealers and this has added to the crisis,” Mr. Kannan said.

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