The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) estimates that it would incur an additional financial burden of Rs 6.57 crore by March 2019 because of rising fuel prices. More than half of BEST buses run on diesel, and the cash-strapped organisation said rising diesel prices was hitting it hard.
Chairman Ashish Chemburkar had in June asked Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to waive fuel tax for the undertaking. BEST requires almost 74,000 kilolitres of diesel everyday to run its fleet. Of its 3,362 buses, 1,329 run on diesel, 2,002 on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) while 31 are electric buses. According to Chemburkar, the undertaking will face an additional burden of Rs 6.57 crore if diesel prices do not fall.
“We may have to remind the state government and our parent body about reimbursing the amount to us. Our daily losses are set to increase if diesel costs do not fall,” Chemburkar said.
The daily expenditure of BEST on fuel has increased from Rs 44.89 lakh on December 1, 2017 to Rs 53.48 lakh as on June 1, 2018. Since August 16, petrol prices have risen by over Rs 2 per litre while diesel prices have been hiked by Rs 2.61 per litre. On Tuesday, petrol prices were at Rs 86.72 per litre while diesel prices were at Rs 75.74 per litre.
Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) officials also said they were incurring heavy losses due to rise in fuel costs. “For an undertaking facing losses of up to Rs 2,300 crore, we are incurring an additional expenditure of Rs 460 crore every year due to fuel price hike. Our expenditure is going to increase further with ST deciding on increasing the salaries of employees and toll costs expected to be on the higher side,” an MSRTC official said.
Being a lean season for travel, even transporters have complained of facing heavy losses due to increased fuel costs. “Though we are nearing Ganeshotsav, we are seeing a thin demand for cab bookings from tourists. We are spending much more than our earnings. As compared to fuel costs three years ago, we are paying three times more now,” said Harsh Kotak of Mumbai Bus Chalak Malak Sanghatana. “Schools and tourist companies use our vehicles. As they have already paid for our services in advance, hiking the charges now would not be of any use,” Kotak added.
Bal Malkit, chairman (core committee), All India Motor Transport Congress, said the hike in prices of fuel was like slow poison for the transport industry. “The state government must intervene and reduce local taxes on fuel prices. They must conduct a quarterly review of the fuel costs,” he added.
Venkat Rao, president, Mumbai Petrol Association, said, “Vehicle owners are increasingly getting affected by the fuel hike. The government must put a cap on fuel costs.”
Even fruits and vegetable traders are feeling the pinch. Shankar Pingale, a trader from the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC), said, “Routine expenses in transporting vegetables and fruits in vehicles have increased.”
Car owners have switched to trains to skip paying the higher fuel costs. Prakash Kumar has obtained a pass in the AC local train, claiming he was saving both time and money. “I travel from Borivali to Churchgate by car. Rather than paying multiple times for increased fuel costs in a day, I would prefer to take a train,” he said.