Kerala

When fuel price hikes stop making news

Common man is feeling the pinch of daily changes in prices

Not so long ago, fuel price increases used to hit the headlines often, leading to heated discussions, protests, and even rollback of prices, when public anger became too much to contain. However, since the introduction of dynamic fuel pricing by the Narendra Modi government, it had disappeared from the headlines and discussions, even though prices have been inching up by a few paises daily.

Though absent from public discourse, the common man is feeling the pinch of the daily fluctuations in prices, which have been invariably going up. One of the hardest hit are autorickshaw drivers in the city.

Drivers’ plight

“When petrol price increases by 40 paise, it means a reduction in savings of ₹30 for us daily. Imagine, how much we are losing through the increase of ₹5 or ₹6 in fuel prices in the gap of a few months. The minimum charge was fixed recently as ₹25. There will not be any increase in this for the next few years. No passenger would give us even a rupee extra after understanding our plight. The price of meals has increased from ₹40 to ₹60 while that of tea has increased from ₹5 to ₹8. While everyone else can increase prices at will, we have to be content with the fixed charges,” says K. Radhakrishnan, an auto driver at the Dewaswom Board junction stand.

Diesel price in the city which was at ₹70.77 on November 1 last year went up to ₹73.86 this month while petrol prices went up from ₹76 to ₹78.36 during the same period. It is predicted that this would go further up as a result of the ongoing tension between Iran and the U.S.

“Though initially I was not conscious of the daily price fluctuations, later I started paying attention when the pump visits started getting more frequent. Now, I use my motorcycle more often than the car,” says Jose George, who works in the insurance sector.

Promise rarely kept

According to the manager of a petrol pump at Pattom, 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 global crude oil prices would be passed on to the customer.

Government-run oil firms have put on hold the price increases only during important elections.

“Before the era of dynamic pricing, when crude oil prices hit ₹120-₹130 in the global market some years ago, the then government kept the prices here under control by subsidising public-sector oil companies. Two major private companies could not compete and they were forced to close many pumps. The deregulation and dynamic pricing has ensured that the private players and the public sector companies are selling at the same rates. This was a move to help these companies at the expense of the consumers,” said an office-bearer of an association of petrol pump owners.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 4:42:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/when-fuel-price-hikes-stop-making-news/article30506220.ece

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