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Attention Mumbaikars! Prepare to face major price hikes from next week

It is almost as if the authorities came together to flood you with price hikes yesterday. Soon, your local train pass will cost you double; your commute in autos and taxis will set you back more; and your grocery bills are already poised to kill your appetite. Have a good weekend, for this may be the last one you could afford to splurge

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of the need to bite the economic bullet last week, Mumbaikars failed to notice the AK-47 pointed at their heads. Well, the first shots have been fired, and they are sure to leave carnage in their wake.

Illustrations/Amit Bandre
Illustrations/Amit Bandre

The Railway Ministry announced an across-the-board hike of 14.2% in passenger fares in all classes and a 6.5% increase in freight rates yesterday, but saved the best for Mumbai, where season ticket prices for local trains will go up by 142%.

Also read: Rail passenger fare hiked by 14.2 per cent

So, while a third-AC Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani ticket’s price will go up from Rs 1,815 to Rs 2,030 a 200-rupee hike a Bhayander-Churchgate first-class monthly pass, which used to cost R795 will set a commuter back by Rs 1,930 a 1,100 rupee hike from June 25.

Double or nothing
“The cost of the season passes will now be calculated on the basis of 30 trips as opposed to fifteen earlier. Thus, there is a hike of 100%,” said a senior railway official. One look at the math, however, and you realise that even the 100% figure would be desirable compared to what the hike actually is, in some cases (see box).

Since the prices of the card ticket themselves have been hiked, the cost of 30 trips will be much higher than it used to be. To begin with, the minimum fare of Rs 5 for a second-class single journey ticket will remain the same, while the minimum fare for first-class has been revised to R50 from the existing Rs 45.

Higher slabs for second-class will see a hike of Rs 5 in subsequent fares, while the cost of a first-class journey will increase by Rs 15-30. Season ticket holders will be the worst hit, and they make up more than 95% of the 75-lakh commuters using the suburban railway every day.

Even within this segment, the hike will pinch those who travel more than 20 km on the suburban network the most, both on the Central and Western lines. Monthly second-class season tickets for Churchgate-Borivli, for instance, will cost Rs 480 now, up from R190 earlier. Those travelling first-class on the same route will have to shell out Rs 1,310 for a monthly pass against the Rs 655 earlier.

Similarly, the price of the season tickets on the Central line will go up substantially. The first-class season pass from CST-Ghatkopar, for instance, is currently around R500, which is set to go up to Rs 1,200 for same period.

Railway speak
“The Order of Fare and Freight revision issued by the Ministry of Railways today (Friday), as finalised by the previous government, is only 10% hike in passenger fare and 5% hike in freight rates.

The figure of 14.2% hike in passenger fare and 6.5% hike in freight rates is inclusive of the Fuel Adjustment Component (FAC) (4.2 % for passenger fare and 1.5% approx. for freight rates), which is done once in six months routinely, depending upon the fluctuations in oil prices similar to retail prices of diesel and petrol at petrol bunks.”
- Anil Kumar Saxena, Addl. DG (PR) (Railways)

Voices

Sankalp Gala (22)
I travel to Bandra from Goregaon in a local on a daily basis, which is the best available option compared to other costly ones like rickshaws and taxis. I survive on my pocket money, which will go for a toss after this major hike.

Azhar Kapdi (26)
I have to travel to my office in Churchgate from Borivli every day and I will now have to pay nearly double for my pass. The hike is going to affect the common man

Short-changed

Rs 200
The hike in the price of a Third-AC Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani ticket

Rs 1,100
Hike in the cost of a Bhayander-Churchgate first-class monthly pass

Your stomach will feel the pinch too

With unseasonable rains earlier, and the monsoon still playing hide-and-seek, the crops have been badly hit, pushing up the rates of vegetables

Whatever you have left over after spending on your commute, trust that the vegetable vendor will squeeze it out of you. Not that you weren’t stretched thin already in that department, considering that this is the third major price rise in the last one year.

Also read: Inflation soars to 6.01 percent on high food, fuel prices

The supply of groceries in the Vashi APMC market is limited; thanks to the untimely rains and hailstorms in January earlier this year that spoiled crops and stunted the yield. The market has seen prices jump up recently.

In many cases, the rates of vegetables have doubled, even trebled, from what you spent on them days ago. Drumsticks, spinach, brinjal, cauliflower, bitter gourd, green peas, cabbage and beans have gotten costlier than they were last week (see box).

Traders at the market have hinted at a worrisome situation for customers in coming months, as the wholesale prices have already starting swelling, and swinging wildly. On top of that, with no rains in sight, traders portend the situation would only worsen. If it doesn’t start raining profusely in the next 10 days, prices will inflate further.

“Untimely rains have destroyed most of the produce and the prices are fluctuating on a daily basis. Demand is not steady. Today the supply may be sufficient and tomorrow it may be the exact opposite,” said, Yogesh Dhole, a vegetable merchant at the market.

Traders added that small markets across the state are directly selling the produce to the customers since, after most of it was destroyed, the remaining was supplied to villages to meet the local demand.

Commenting on the current situation, Ashok Walunj, director of APMC’s onion-potato market, said, “Untimely climatic conditions in some parts of the state have hampered the vegetable supply chain. The situation may continue for at least a month. Stable supply can only be expected if the rains commence at the earliest.”

In addition, wholesale traders revealed that retailers play a major role in price fixing. “Even if the wholesale rates of some vegetables come down, retailers still charge a substantial amount from the customers.

This creates unnecessary misconceptions about the market and affects the customer’s budget,” said a trader. Traders are optimistic about the market situation in coming weeks, but expect the prices to shoot up by 10-15% in the coming weeks.


Generous state bestows cab, auto drivers with another fare hike

State transport department, in its relentless bounty, has proposed a Rs 2 increase in base fares for both

Know that one-rupee coin you let go when paying the minimum taxi fare of Rs 19? Soon enough, you won’t have to let it go. It will rightfully belong with the taxi driver, along with the next one in your pocket.

Based on union demands, the state transport department, in keeping with the Hakim Committee recommendations, is batting for a Rs 2 hike in the base fare for both taxis and autos.

Also read: Mumbai auto unions want minimum fare to be Rs 18

Once it gets the court’s nod, it will come into force in the coming 15 days. In other words, in about a couple of weeks, you will be shelling out Rs 17 for autos and Rs 21 for cabs, as base fare.

The state’s decision was sealed during a Mumbai Metropolitan Region Transport Authority (MMRTA) meeting yesterday. “We will bring the proposed fare hike to the notice of the Bombay High Court, which will make the final decision.

It would be implemented based on the court’s views,” said S Sharma, principal secretary (transport) to the state government. The brazen proposal comes at a time when consumer forums have already knocked the court’s doors over unrelenting fare hikes.

Litigation filed
Mumbai Grahak Panchayat has submitted litigation in the high court over the issue, stating that the hikes are being implemented too frequently. “We have already filed a PIL in the court.

Since it has now gone to the court, we will get a chance to challenge the proposed fare hike. We want the government to justify the hike, and the high court will take a decision,” said Shirish Deshpande, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat.

The subsequent per-kilometer hikes haven’t been announced but, of course, there are very enthusiastic suggestions from both the cabbies as well as the autowallhas. Meanwhile, the hyper-proactive auto unions have demanded the subsequent rates, which at present stand at Rs 10 per km, to be hiked to Rs 12.28.

The union had also demanded, outrageously but unsurprisingly, that the minimum fare be raised to R18 per km, and lengthen the basic distance to 2 km from the present 1.5 km. “We are preparing the case for a fare hike in the high court,” said Thampy Kurien, auto rickshaw union leader.

You’d think the unions would be pleased as plum now, but what do you know! Taxi drivers feel that the revised fares are too less, seen against their original demand of a Rs 25 base fare and 2-km basic distance.

“The taxis and autos have been measured with the same yardstick and given a Rs 2 hike, which is unfair. There are factors like insurance and horsepower that differ greatly for taxis and autos, due to which the running expenses also vary,” said AL Quadros, leader of Mumbai Taximen’s Union.

Autos
Fare hike: Rs 2
Minimum fare: Rs 17

Taxis
Fare hike: Rs 2
Minimum fare: Rs 21

Vegetables
Price hike: 15%

Train season ticket
Fare hike: 143%

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