This certainly won’t help swallow the bitter petrol-hike pill.
Petrol prices have tripled for the common man in the last 13 years but the country’s top civil servants haven’t had to deal with a fuel hike since 1999. Senior government officials pay a measly Rs 700 every month to use their air-conditioned official cars for private purposes.
This amount was last fixed in 1999, when petrol went for Rs 23.80 a litre in Delhi. Wednesday’s hike, which took the price of the fuel to Rs 73.18, was the 65th revision in the last 13 years.
If government officials had to pay for the fuel from their pockets now, R700 would take them no further than 70-100 km, depending on what chauffeur-driven car they use.
This charge was introduced in 1994 to legalise personal use of staff cars by secretary-level officers.
“It is not an unlimited concession. There is an upper limit of 500 km a month,” a government official said. But he acknowledged this limit could be “managed” in the logbooks.
Another pointed out, in a lighter vein, that there was an advantage in insulating the bureaucracy from spikes in petrol prices.
"It helps them take decisions in public interest without having to worry about its impact on their household budgets," he remarked.
Incidentally, the concessional charge was fixed in the context of a secretary-rank officer getting a monthly salary of Rs 26,000 (plus dearness allowance). By now, the fixed scale has increased three-fold to Rs 80,000.