Mumbai: The steep hike in the price of diesel has stirred up protests and oppositions from both political parties as well as ordinary citizens who believe they are in for harder times. People are shocked by the government limiting the availability of subsidized cooking gas cylinders to six per family in a year even as they fear prices of vegetables, milk, oil, sugar and grains shooting up soon. It won’t be long when they will also have to shell out more for transport.
The cascading effect of the hike has already started showing in various sectors. The school bus association in Mumbai has already increased the bus fares from Rs 600 to 650 for small buses and from Rs650 to Rs680 for bigger ones. And the Bombay Goods and Transport Association has warned that prices of vegetables and raw materials for industrial goods will shoot up by at least 10 percent due to the higher price of diesel. The Association has asked Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to reduce tax on diesel and petrol to balance in order to balance the prices with that of other metros.
The All India Motor Transport Association has threatened to go on an indefinite strike and increase transportation cost by 15 percent if the government does not rollback diesel price by September 18.
Since diesel if far cheaper than petrol, it is the preferred fuel for trucks, tempos, commercially-run buses and trains. With the railways expected to suffer a loss of Rs 12 billion due to the hike, it won’t be long when rail fares too go up. Even the fares of affordable state-run buses, the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation, are likely to be hiked. Diesel price in Mumbai has gone up from Rs 46.25 to Rs 52.45 per litre.
Angry Shiv Sena workers took to the streets in Dadar, the Sena stronghold, and several parts of the city shouting slogans against the price hike. In Pune, women activists of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) served black tea prepared on ‘chulha’ or earthen stoves to protest the price hike in LPG cylinder and diesel. Their demonstration was staged at Alka Talkies Square where they used firewood and kerosene to light their stoves and offered tea without milk to bystanders whilst party workers agitated. The restriction on cooking gas cylinders to six would mean that buying it in the open would cost Rs 750 from the subsidized Rs 414. A spokesperson said the protest was to express the difficulties faced by ordinary Indians due to the price hike.