A Fuel Hike in the Time of Coronavirus

The Central Government hiked the excise duty of Petrol and Diesel by Rs 3/ltr on 14th March. The government is set to make a windfall of Rs 39,000 crores, an amount which ideally could have been passed on to the consumers in India who are already suffering from loss on account of social distancing due to the spread of coronavirus.

Waiting for an auto, Location: Lissie Junction

It’s the common people who are facing the brunt says Raju, who drives an autorickshaw in Kaloor, he continued, “We are already seeing a fifty percent decrease in passenger patronage, the Kaloor Bus Stand which used to have 50 autorickshaws now only have 40 of them plying around, there’s a decrease in the number of travelers as well. It affects even the bus owners. In my opinion, the government should have delayed the hike in excise duty considering the situation.

Ranjit who also joined the conversation said, “It’s been 45 minutes since I have been waiting for a ride, no one has availed the service yet, for people like us who depend on daily income, the fuel hike is a double-edged sword, I could have saved Rs 30 for ten liters of diesel every time I filled my vehicles' fuel tank.”

Bus Driver Arun who was waited for five minutes at the bus stand said, “See, it’s just one or two who got inside bus today, we have a loss of Rs 3000/day compared to the pre-coronavirus period, I am someone who follows news and I was waiting for the fuel prices to come down as I said read in the news that global prices are coming down. Unfortunately, we haven’t received any such benefits and now the government has raised the excise duty.”

The situation is similar for those who do freelance work. Mahesh(name changed), who teaches music for children says, “I take my motorbike to give music tuitions for children at their homes. Since the spread of coronavirus, I lost many students as their parents are worried and have asked me not to come until the government says it’s safe. I understand their situation, I have lost at least two weeks of income of this month, however, my expenses remain the same, I could have saved on fuel but that’s not how it looks like.”

A freelance photographer who recently bought a car on EMI says, “All works till April 8th has been postponed, I need to pay my EMI and also use the car for personal purpose, I could have saved on the fuel but unfortunately that’s not the case. The wedding which was scheduled for April 8th the bride has to come from Saudi Arabia, now it seems unlikely, I have lost similar works where close relatives have to fly down from affected countries. There’s also another problem I face, customers who have already availed by service are delaying the album printout, some say, we will let you know when we want the album. Even they seem to not have money for the services we have already rendered.”

The BJP leaders are also finding it hard to explain the logic behind the hike in fuel prices, V Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs when cornered by broadcast media members said,

Petrol prices have gone down. We have increased only a portion of that fall. Don’t look for logic. When prices fall in the international markets, we raise a bit of that fall in taxes. Even when we increase it, price has gone down. And we haven’t increased in proportion to the fall. When we increased the taxes by Rs 3, the price hasn’t gone up as much. And nobody is taking this money their home.

The corporates are too facing problem recounts Mathew(name changed), he says, “One of our employees stays in an apartment and her flatmates recently flew from Thailand, the word spread and there was widespread panic in our office, we had to give everyone work from home option, the productivity levels came down from 80% to 50% during this period. We consume a lot of diesel for our generators, however, the fall in global prices will not give us much savings due to the hike. We also depend on China for our raw materials, we have had multiple meetings and are yet to come up with a solid plan as we are uncertain of the immediate feature.”

Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi took a dig on the Centre Government, he tweeted, “Just 3 days ago I had requested PMOIndia to pass on the benefit of the global oil price crash to Indian consumers, by slashing the prices of petrol & diesel in India. Instead of heeding this advice, our genius(sic) has gone and hiked #exciseduty on fuel!”

In the midst of all this, West Railway admitted that they do not wash the blankets after each trip. They said blankets will not be provided and requested the passengers to make their own arrangements.

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