All the past fuel price hikes have already burned the proverbial hole in your pockets. You can now prepare for heartburn. With the new 50 paisa/litre hike in diesel prices effected from yesterday, most of everything is set to get dearer, be it your commute to work or your grocery bills.
The hike announced by oil and natural gas minister M Veerappa Moily on January 18 will further burden the loss-making Brhihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking. Travelling in BEST buses will become dearer by April.
“We expect additional burden to the tune of Rs 42.50 crore annually due to the diesel price hike,” said a BEST official. There are nearly 1,800 buses that run on diesel of the fleet of 4,700 buses that ferry 40 lakh Mumbaikars every day. The rest run on CNG. In April last year, the undertaking increased ticket fares by 33-35 per cent to recover losses due to hike in CNG prices. Sources said the public unit is hoping for another round of fare hike, by at least Rs 2 to keep itself afloat in the changed scenario.
Taxis and autos
The good news is: taxis and auto rickshaws in Mumbai and suburbs do not run on diesel, but CNG. The bad news, which makes the good superfluous, is that the price hike will affect prices of auto spare parts and other ancillaries like oils, lubes and tyres, possibly jacking up what you pay the cabbie or the autowalla.
Union sources claimed the expected increase in costs they incur would be 5 paisa/km. “The new prices will chiefly affect maintenance of newer models of taxis, which will go up from the current Rs 12.32 paisa/km,” said A Quadros, general secretary, Mumbai Taximen’s Union.
Tempos, trucks and school buses
The daily transportation of vegetables, fruits, milk and other essential commodities is, of course bound to go up. There are around 7,000 trucks and tempos plying daily in the city and its suburbs.
Said Bal Malkit Singh, president, All India Motor Transport Congress, “While oil firms have been granted the freedom to effect diesel price hikes, there is absence of any regulatory mechanism to safeguard the interests of the common man.” Sources in the Bombay Goods and Transport Association (BGTA) said they expect input costs to soar by around 3 per cent. “After taking all costs, each goods vehicle costs around Rs 15 per km to run. We expect a hike of 3 per cent here,” said JK Jain, general secretary, BGTA. “There was no reason for this hike. The government is simply supporting oil companies.”
A ferry owner at Gateway of India said, “We have been absorbing the frequent rise in petrol and diesel prices made till date. But now we will have to pass the costs on to passengers.”
Suhas Padte, a boat owner and a tour operator, said the hike in would scale up costs to operate tourist buses that give visitors a tour of Mumbai. “As of now, no decision has been taken to hike bus fares, but tour operators will take a decision soon unanimously.” He added, “We cannot take any decision on ferry rates. The Mumbai Port Trust is authorised to increase rates. So we will soon request them to do that.”
The cost enlargements are enough to make you fall ill, and apparently, you can still afford to. Ambulances in the city run on diesel. Hospitals depend on it for operating their power back-up systems like generators. So any escalation in diesel price could have inflated your medical tabs, but they won’t, say health experts.
Deans of hospitals claim that a fuel price hike cannot be allowed to affect primary medical aid services like that of an ambulance. The same goes for hospital generators.
The price heat will expand the civic budget, which means you have to shell out more in taxes. The BMC operates over 800 dumpers and compactors and around 230 firefighting tenders, all which run on diesel. The fire brigade alone consumes around 1.2 lakh litres of diesel every year.
Prakash Kadam, chief engineer, solid waste management department, BMC said, “The hike in diesel prices would affect this year’s BMC budget.” The BMC expects its annual burden to grow by around Rs 2-3 crore due to the hike. But cheer up. These could be the better times of the lot. With oil firms having been given the leeway to bring about small hikes in diesel price every month, the worst is probably yet to come.
Mohit Patel, a Four Bungalows resident, said, “The way prices of essential commodities have gone up in the last one year proves the Congress-led UPA government has failed to curb inflation. If this continues, UPA will have a tough time in the coming elections.”
Ramesh Shetty, who frequently travels between Andheri and Vikroli said, “Every 6-8 months we witeness a fuel price hike. The common man is wobbling under the burden of inflation and with the recent hike in the diesel prices, the rates of all other things are going to increase further.”
Said Chembur resident Vanita Walecha, “My grocery budget is swelling, and now this sudden spurt in diesel prices will make me think twice before planning a family trip.”
“From bus travel to an outing like going to the theatre, everything is going to pinch our pockets,” said Parel resident Sharad Rao.
Inputs by Shashank Rao, Urvashi Seth and Naveen Nair