Kerala

Rising fuel prices, increasing concerns

Petrol bunk employees in Thiruvananthapuram sport masks following the COVID-19 threat. Queues have thinned down in most pumps in the past few days.

Petrol bunk employees in Thiruvananthapuram sport masks following the COVID-19 threat. Queues have thinned down in most pumps in the past few days.   | Photo Credit: S. Gopakumar

News on fuel price hikes, with its regularity, have almost become a permanent fixture , with prices being hiked on seven consecutive days now.

Rising fuel prices, increasing concerns

Amid the pandemic-induced slowdown, wage cuts and job losses, these daily hikes have come as a major blow for many, across various strata of society.

The issue has taken a political turn, with Transport Minister A.K.Saseendran writing a letter to the Union Petroleum Minister marking the State’s protest against the daily increase amid the pandemic.

He requested the Minister to direct the petroleum companies to reduce the prices in line with the fall in global crude oil prices, as well as to control the duty hike.

As on June 4, the diesel price in Kerala was ₹67.17, which increased daily by 40-50 paise to the current level of ₹ 70.74. The petrol prices of the corresponding days were ₹73.06 and ₹76.65. Though the global crude oil prices had hit rock-bottom during the lockdown, the Union government increased the excise duty twice during the period, to a total of ₹16 for diesel and ₹13 for petrol, without passing on the benefits to consumers.

At the State’s markets, wholesale traders are beginning to feel the pinch of the price hikes, as there are talks of freight charges going up if the prices continue the upward trend.

“Following the lockdown, we have all been suffering due to the meagre sales. Much of the rice supply to this region, especially the preferred varieties of Jaya and Surekha rice, comes from Andhra Pradesh. Transporting companies have not yet increased rates because even they are desperate to get the business going. But, this sharp rise in fuel prices will soon reflect in commodity prices,” says Santosh Kumar, who runs a wholesale rice dealership at Chala market in Thiruvananthapuram.

Autorickshaw drivers across the State, who are still recovering from the weeks of lockdown, are staring at the fuel price hike with alarm.

“People are still wary of travelling in autorickshaws due to the fear of the virus. So, we don't get the same number of trips as we used to get. With a 50 paise price increase, we lose ₹30-40 in daily savings. There won’t be any corresponding increase in our minimum charges,” says M.Hussain, an autorickshaw driver.

Double whammy

Delivery agents of online food delivery aggregators are now facing the double whammy of increasing fuel prices and drastic cut in incentives. “The small savings that we make daily depend on lower fuel prices and more incentives. Now, the reverse is happening, at a time when many of us are struggling to make ends meet,” says Mahir, a delivery agent.

Post deregulation of fuel prices, the prices have only gone up, and rarely fallen, although the promise in the early days of deregulation was that the benefit of fall in the global crude oil prices will be passed on to customers.

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Printable version | Aug 9, 2020 12:10:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/increasing-fuel-prices-rising-concerns/article31822574.ece

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