Consumers reconciled to hike in petroleum price

CHENNAI, JULY 6. Though taken by surprise, city consumers took the 11 and 53 paise per litre price hike on petrol and diesel in their stride.

As a result of the increase that came into force from Thursday midnight, a litre of petrol costs Rs.30.49, while the same quantity of diesel is available at Rs.18.54.

The upward change, applicable only on the fuels dispensed at petrol bunks located within the Chennai Municipal Corporation limits, also symbolises the phasing-out of petrol and diesel with 0.25 per cent sulphur content.

Instead, only the premium grade ultra low-sulphur (0.05 per cent) petrol and diesel will be available now.

Barring a few reports of frayed tempers and heated arguments in which the consumers objected to the multi-product dispensing units (pumps) at the retail outlets displaying the old rates, there was no apparent opposition to the hike.

``Even these scattered incidents could have been avoided, had the oil companies made a public announcement about the price hike'', according to Mr. M. Kannan, secretary, Tamil Nadu Petroleum Dealers Association. Such a move would have made it easy for the dealers to explain to the consumers about the time taken to alter the pricing displays in the computer-chip controlled units.

Left with little option, after most of them were telephonically informed about the change this morning, the dealers pasted bits of papers indicating the new price on the pumps.

The new pricing system, however, has not gone down well with the dealers, particularly those with outlets located at the end of the city limits such as Anna Nagar, Tondiarpet, Perambur and Guindy. ``It is a matter of time before truckers shift their loyalty to outlets located just outside the city, where diesel will be sold at the old rates. Such a trend would seriously affect the business of outlets located on the city fringes'', points out Mr.Kannan.

Urging the national oil companies to ``absorb the price hike'' till the ultra low-sulphur products are introduced all over the State, he says, ``following the change, the city dealers will have to make more investment towards purchase of the products, while there will be no change in their commission rates. Rather, the price hike could have been avoided or at least the differential reduced, if the products are supplied all over the State''.

From a consumer's perspective, Thursday's price hike does not address the issue of motorists having to forgo loose change of a few paise while purchasing the fuels by litres rounded-off. One way of addressing the grievance, consumers say, is to create a fund in which the loose change could be deposited. The collections could be utilised for some social welfare measures or at least towards improving the road infrastructure.