In the last days of May, CNG prices in the national capital touched the Rs 75 mark. That was when Indraprastha Gas Ltd (IGL) increased the price of CNG by two rupees in Delhi and its adjoining areas.
That may not sound like a significant increase, but this was the 13th hike in over two months. In the last one year, prices have increased by Rs 30.21 per kg or 60%.
CNG price per kg is even higher at Rs 78.17 in Noida, Greater Noida and Ghaziabad. In Gurugram, it costs Rs 83.94 per kg.
Because of this sharp increase in prices, auto rickshaw drivers and taxi drivers are witnessing a decline in earnings. Shiv Kant, who hails from Uttar Pradesh, is living in the capital for the last 20 years. For the last 10 years, he has been driving a green-and-yellow auto to earn for his family. “This hike in prices is unprecedented for me”, says Shiv Kant.
According to him, he earns about Rs 1,000 a day and out of this, spends around Rs 400 on purchasing gas. Above this, he pays a 20% commission to the mobility service provider app. At the end of the day, he is left with Rs 400 in hand, which is Rs 100 less than that earned by unskilled labour in the capital.
“Earlier my profit used to be around Rs 500-550 but it has decreased in the last few months”, says Shiv Kant.
Other expenses like the maintenance of auto rickshaws is also costly for drivers. “I spend around Rs 4,000 a month on the maintenance of my vehicle. My daily expenses have increased because of inflation but income is stagnant”, says Kant.
Shiv Kant was planning to send his son to college for graduation but increasing inflation has become an obstacle. “Everything is costlier, from food to fuel and even my rent has increased. I don’t know how I will manage to pay fees for my son’s education”, laments Shiv Kant.
In April, prices of gas increased multiple times in the capital. Owing to this increase, auto rickshaw and cab drivers went on strike on 18-19 April.
Three-wheeler drivers and taxi drivers are demanding an increase in fare rates and a reduction in CNG prices.
“Kejriwal had said that he will increase the fare rates. If the government increases it, automatically apps will also increase the fares”, says Kant.
In April, the Delhi Government had set up a panel to revise fare prices for auto rickshaws and taxis. After hearing the concerns of the auto and taxi unions, the Delhi government panel recommended an increase in fares in view of the rise in CNG prices in the national capital.
Other auto rickshaw drivers who are independent and do not drive for apps are left in the lurch. Shakil Ahmed, who drives an auto in south Delhi, explains the reasons behind these problems drivers are facing saying, “Majority of the people prefer app-based rides, which are cheap. Increase in the number of erickshaws has also impacted our earnings”, says Shakil.
“People do not understand that fuel price is increasing and because of this, we have to increase the fare”, adds Shakil.
Komal Yadav, a resident of Satya Niketan, used to pay Rs 10 earlier, but now pays Rs 20 for a ride from Satya Niketan to Moti Lal Nehru College. “I am a student; it’s becoming hard for me. Now I am thinking of switching to the bus but it takes more time”, says Yadav.
Most auto drivers start their day at 7 am and go home at 9 pm. Not that they have passengers the whole day. “I sit idle for 4-5 hours a day”, Yadav says, an indication of commuters preferring app-based rides. According to Kant, he drives 200 km a day.
Dhanraj, who is driving a taxi for the last few years recalls the old days. “When I started driving a taxi, I use to pay Rs 18 per kg for CNG but prices have touched the sky”, he says.
Drivers like Dhanraj pay a 26% commission to the app but the increase in fuel prices has made a hole in his pocket. All seven members of his family are dependent on him.
He earns around Rs 1,700 after driving 150 km in a day. Rs 700 is spent on purchasing CNG and Rs 300 is paid as a commission to the app. Only Rs 700 is left in hand.
“At the start, it was a profitable profession because there were few taxis and passengers were more but now it has reversed”, says Dhanraj. According to him, four years ago he used to earn Rs 2,500 a day and his daily profit used to be Rs 1,500.
Delhi’s gas distributors have been raising prices since October 2021. The reason behind rising prices is increased international gas prices as economies globally recover from the pandemic-induced slowdown. No wonder drivers are asking the Kejriwal government to provide a subsidy on CNG and have arbitrarily raised fares on their own, rarely going by the meter.
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