• Wed. Jun 29th, 2022

Rising CNG price weighs on taxi drivers’ budgets

ByElla E. Kidwell

May 21, 2022

From withholding tuition fees to cutting food consumption, gig workers have been pushed to the brink by soaring commodity prices

From withholding tuition fees to cutting food consumption, gig workers have been pushed to the brink by soaring commodity prices

On Saturday, fuel prices took different directions in the capital. Even as diesel and petrol prices were reduced by ₹6 and ₹8 per liter respectively, CNG saw a spike of ₹2 per litre, adding to Kamla Prasad’s long list of woes, an app based taxi driver.

Mr Prasad, 51, said he faced a dilemma at the start of each month – whether to pay the rent for the house, his child’s school fees or repay the loan for his taxi.

The rise in the price of CNG in recent months – 13 times since March 7 – is hurting its budget. Mr. Prasad reached a point where his daily CNG expenses doubled and he ended up missing two months of EMI for his quad and one month of rent.

With three daughters going to school and a wife to take care of, he works harder than ever, putting in 18 hours of service a day. But even that is not enough to meet his basic monthly expenses.

No savings

“The problems have increased. We have no savings now. Taking care of the family is not easy,” Mr. Prasad said, “if I make one payment, I have to withhold the rest for the month.

Many taxi drivers this reporter spoke to had the same story to share. If they earn around ₹2,000 after driving more than 16 hours a day, only a quarter of their income is left, as ₹1,400-1,500 goes to fuel.

Of the remaining amount, the drivers have set aside around ₹250 for their daily meals while on the job and they are left with around ₹200. Until two months ago, taxi drivers spent an average of ₹600 on daily fuel consumption, which helped them save enough to pay for their car’s EMIs.

Sumit Bharadwaj, chairman of Expert Driver Solutions, a Delhi-based taxi drivers union affiliated with the Indian Federation of App-Based Transport Workers (IFAT), said rising fuel prices have made the situation worse. taxi drivers, as many of them have had their cars seized by the financiers – like Bunty Rathore, 38.

Mr Rathore said only last week he started driving the car after a three-month hiatus. “I passed the pending challans, renewed the insurance, paid the road tax and obtained a certificate of aptitude too,” he said.

“For four days I drove at least 15 hours a day and yet I was unable to pay the daily deposit of ₹1100 for the vehicle. Five days ago my financier seized the vehicle and now I am sitting at home with no work,” Mr Rathore said, adding that he also had a debt of ₹80,000 to settle.

While taxi drivers have driven long hours to survive, for those responsible for delivering food this is not an option.

Mayank Mishra, 26, has been working for a food delivery platform for over a year. Even if he wanted to work longer, there are not enough orders to take. “I reduced the number of dining out and food orders in restaurants,” he said. He only spends ₹30-40 on his meals on the go, compared to ₹150-200 a few months ago. “I can’t even afford to chew tobacco now,” he said.

The same is true for Wali Ahmed, 40, another food delivery man, whose family of five have reduced their meat consumption at home. From once a week they have gone to once a month now, if at all. “We had to make adjustments in every little thing. My daughter was promoted to Class VII but I was unable to pay the fees at the start of the session, so her name in her school’s new register was withheld,” he said.

Telangana-based IFAT National General Secretary Sheikh Salauddin said construction workers were already among the most oppressed sections of workers in the country and that rising fuel prices are “like the last nail in the their coffin.