Fuel price hike: Maharashtra auto drivers forced to work extra hours
Aurangabad, Feb 11: The rising prices of petrol is eating into the earnings of auto-rickshaw drivers and disturbing their household budgets, forcing them to work extra hours to earn additional income here in Maharashtra.
Some of the auto-rickshaw drivers say they earlier used to work from 10 am to 7 pm in a day, but are now starting early in the morning and ferrying passengers till late night to earn some profit and support their families.
Retail petrol rates have risen by Rs 18.01 per litre since mid-March 2020, after the government raised taxes to mop up gains arising from fall in international oil prices. Diesel rates have gone up by Rs 15.44 per litre. So far this year, petrol prices have risen by Rs 3.89 per litre and of diesel by Rs 3.86 per litre.
In Aurangabad, the price of unleaded petrol has reached Rs 95.27 per litre, while the petrol with additives is selling at Rs 98.13 per litre. Among those hit hard by the price hike is Abdul Rahim (65), hailing from Sanjay Nagar area here, who has been driving auto-rickshaw since 1980.
"Earlier, I used to ferry passengers from 10 am to 7 pm. The petrol price rise has reduced my earnings and to earn a profit of around Rs 200, I have to now start early at about 9 am and drive till 10 pm," he told reporters.
Rahim said he spends nearly Rs 230 every day on fuel and by end of the day, he earns about Rs 400. He has to shell out money for the vehicle's maintenance also.
"My family comprises five members and one of my sons works in a garage. This adds little to our family income. We earlier suffered due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown and now the rising fuel price is a cause of worry," he said.
There are 31,038 auto-rickshaws registered with the Aurangabad regional transport office, including 9,972 vehicles using LPG as fuel, an RTO official said. Auto-rickshaw driver Mohammed Faheem said he earns about Rs 300 after spending Rs 110 on petrol for his vehicle.
"I also need to pay Rs 100 as rent to the vehicle owner every day. I earn only Rs 100, hence I am driving at least two more hours every day," he said.
Those driving vehicles using LPG as fuel earn a little more, but driving with a petrol engine is a tough job, said Faheem (45), a resident of Rangar Galli here. "My son is working in a mobile shop and adds Rs 4,000 to our family income every month.
Many a times, he has to take an advance from his employer for the medical treatment of my wife, who is diabetic," he added. Dinesh Bhatawale, another auto-rickshaw driver, said he has changed his work schedule to earn some income.
"I start my day around 8 am. Earlier, I used to go home around 2 pm for lunch and take a little rest. Now, I spend the afternoon time looking for passengers," he said.
Bhatawale said even if a passenger calls around 10 pm, he does not refuse to ferry him/her. Another local auto-rickshaw driver Dattaprasad Trivedi said even though he is out on roads for at least two more hours every day, there is no certainty of getting passengers.