Driving to work and back could drill a hole in your pocket. With the Central Government last week allowing petrol prices to be based on market forces — diesel prices will be similarly deregulated soon — fuel rates spiked, making the drive to work and back unaffordable for many.
Already reeling under double-digit inflation and a hike in taxi and rickshaw fares, commuters aren’t a happy lot. On an average, a commuter who used to spend Rs 1,000 per week on fuel would now have to shell out Rs 70 more for the same period. In the past year, petrol prices have risen by over Rs 10. But, with the economy only now on the path to recovery, salaries have not risen proportionately.
Abhishek Nigam, an automobile journalist, drives a Baleno. He has cut down on short-distance car travel, unless it’s absolutely urgent. “Before the fuel price hike, I was able to tank up my Baleno for under Rs 2,000. Now, I need to shell out Rs 200 more for it. I have stopped using my car for short distances and stick to my bike now,” he said. The Baleno delivers an average of 12 kilometres per litre (kmpl) of petrol, while Nigam’s motorcycle gives 45 kmpl.
There are apprehensions — once deregulation kicks in completely, prices could fluctuate even fortnightly — but many are also trying to make the most of it. With little hope that fuel prices will fall even if international crude oil prices fall, many are finding ways to optimise their fuel usage.
Mallet D’Souza, a web designer, uses the air-conditioner in his car only when it gets too humid. He’s also considering joining a car pool. “After the price hike, I make optimum use of my Hyundai i10 and derive more mileage from it. For instance, if there’s a traffic jam, I switch off the engine,” said D’Souza.
The impact of the fuel hike will be felt on home budgets too as prices of essentials will rise. Traders have warned of a 10 per cent hike in prices of essentials with the next 10 days. Pulses could rise by Rs 5 at least and rice by Rs 3-4.
While overall inflation is at 10.2 per cent, food inflation has hit a high of 16.9 per cent.
“It certainly pinches the pocket, but we continue to travel in cars and taxis as there is no alternative,” said Bhavana Mehta, a communications specialist with MTV India, referring to the poor state of buses and trains in Mumbai.