Rising fuel prices give Indians tough time on roads
NEW DELHI — Hit hard by a steep hike in fuel prices, urban residents in India are trying all cost-effective measures to tackle commuting. The most popular among them has been to shun the use of private cars and resort to public transport or carpooling.
Petrol and diesel prices have been steadily rising over the past few months.
Despite protests, petrol has reached 80 Indian rupees ($1.1) per liter in most Indian cities, including New Delhi, and reached 90 rupees ($1.2) in financial capital Mumbai, as the dip in the value of India’s currency and rise in international crude prices continue to push rates across the country to an all-time high.
India is the third-largest of crude oil and rising prices are inflating domestic transport fuel costs in an environment where demand is strong.
Brent, the benchmark for more than half the world’s oil, climbed to $80 per barrel from $71 in the past five weeks, and the rupee lost ground against the dollar by 5-6 percent during the same period, resulting in expensive crude imports.
The rise has forced many to cut household expenses to adjust.
“I have been carpooling since last month when the prices started to rise. With my salary and two children to educate, it’s difficult to manage the budget. Though carpooling can be a time-consuming exercise, it is helping us manage our monthly expenses as most of the money we make for our survival was going into refueling the car,” said Gargi Chaudhury, an IT executive.
In a recent survey conducted by citizens’ forum Local Circles, participants from five cities responded that the fuel price rise has created a significant financial impact on their daily lives.
Respondents said they had cut down on leisure activities and discretionary spending like eating out, travel, movies and shopping, which is particularly depressing given that the festival season is around the corner.
“My wife used to spend almost 10,000 Indian rupees ($150) per month on fuel but with the price hike, we could not afford to shell out more than we were already doing. We both have stopped using our cars and instead using the rail or carpooling with colleagues. The price rise has really burned a hole in our pockets. We are also thinking of abandoning our cars altogether to travel on bikes to the office and use bicycles for daily-use purposes,” said Akash Singh, a Delhi-based private sector bank executive.
Students like Shweta Bhanot have taken to the Metro. “My parents bought me a car recently to go to college. But with my pocket money, I cannot afford the fuel. In fact, the Metro is also expensive for me,” said the Delhi University student.
An army of sheep are marched back to their farms — completely blocking main roads on their route. Shepherds were herding their flocks down from the Carpathian mountains in the south of Poland, walking for 30 kilometers so they can winter at farms in the region.
Demonstrators protest against the petrol and diesel price rise in Mumbai, India, on Aug 31.