‘Life is getting harder’; What Delhi people say about price hikes?

'Life is getting harder'; What Delhi people say about price hikes?
Photo: Dewang Gupta/Unsplash

Hira Singh, 42, has been driving autorickshaw in the national capital Delhi for 25 years now. After having migrated from his ancestral village in Uttar Pradesh to Delhi, he has been moving around the city all his young age – trying different jobs, and settling on one. Then he bought his own autorickshaw. At that time, the price of petrol was 13 rupees. Now, almost twenty-five years later, it has skyrocketed to 95.97 rupees.  

“When I first started driving autorickshaw, the prices of petrol and CNG were very low. Now it has been doubled. It’s very hard to bear the expenses of oneself, and one’s own family. What can a poor person do? How can we afford the expenses of our family when all we earn is just meeting our own expenses?” Singh asks. He also said to Maktoob that auto’s spare parts’ prices have hiked too. 

Fuel prices have been increasing at a fast rate in India. In November, a single litre of petrol was priced at Rs 110.04 in Delhi and at Rs 115.85 in Mumbai. The rates of diesel were priced at Rs 98.42 in Delhi and Rs 106.62 in Mumbai. In October, fuel prices were hiked in 24 out of 31 days, according to reports.

Ashraf Khan, 43, is another autorickshaw driver who has been driving rickshaw in Delhi for twenty years. Khan originally belongs to West Bengal. He is not happy with the rising fuel prices as it’s unable for him to meet even basic needs. Asked about the impact of rising fuel prices, Khan said whatever he earns barely meets his needs. 

“First, the business was good and then the pandemic happened which destroyed everything, especially the people like us. Public too hasn’t enough money to spend,” Khan said. “I eat from a restaurant, and the prices of Sabzi (vegetable curry) have also doubled there.”

Previous year, the Delhi government announced that it will provide financial assistance of Rs 5,000 to each of the drivers of public transport vehicles including autos, taxis and e-rickshaws in the city which had been affected by the COVID lockdown. 

“Politicians lie every time. All the Neta’s (Politicians) come to us with their advertisements and tell us they will fulfil our promises – as fuel prices will go down. But once the elections are over, no one comes after that,” said Imran Ahmad, 38, an autorickshaw driver who has been driving around Delhi for almost 6 years. 

Chalaan (fine) has also increased, and we’ve to compromise on our living to be able to survive and fulfil our needs,” Ahmad said to Maktoob.

Surprisingly, on 1 December, petrol prices in Delhi were slashed by Rs 8 as the government reduced VAT to 19.4%. Petrol will now cost Rs 95.97. Before the reduction, the cost was Rs 103.97. 

“We have made petrol very cheap in Delhi from today. VAT rates have been reduced from 30% to 19.4%. Petrol and diesel will be cheaper in Delhi as compared to other cities of NCR. I hope this step will bring huge relief to the people of Delhi from inflation,” Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted.

Earlier in November, Kejriwal who was on a visit to Punjab ahead of the upcoming Assembly polls, accepted the invitation from an auto-driver for dinner. The move won several hearts on the internet, and it was applauded. 

During the state assembly elections, auto-walla’s of Delhi play a crucial role. In order to woo the voters, political parties try to influence people by putting advertisements on autorickshaws. They have been playing an important role for the political parties in gaining a lot of support from the public.

But auto walla’s like Ashraf strongly disagree with the promises political parties make during the elections. “Whenever they have an interest, they will touch your feet to get the work done,” he said.

It’s not just the auto drivers who are suffering from the hikes in fuel price, but the street vendors, cobblers, and all the people who depend strongly on people. 

Dinesh, 19, is from Lucknow Uttar Pradesh. He has been working in Delhi for five years and sells coconuts on his cart. Dinesh left his studies due to the financial instability in his home and came to Delhi in search of work. He landed in Delhi and tried different jobs. Finally, the 19-year-old bought a cart of his own and began selling coconuts. He is unhappy but not hopeless with the government over the rise of fuel and other prices.

“Mehangai bohat badh gayi hai… (Inflation has risen so much) Sometimes, like in winters, I barely make enough to meet my needs, and plus the place where I eat has also increased its food prices,” Dinesh said, adding, “We have hopes from the government, and they can’t let us hopeless.”

But Bhagwan Das, 43, is completely hopeless about the situation of the price hike in India. He is a cobbler and is afraid that he might have to quit his job to go back to his village in Bihar and start farming. 

Due to the price hike in the national capital, Bhagwan isn’t able to earn enough money like he wants to. He is adamant about the “hypocrisy” of elections and thinks it’s just a “drama.”

“During elections, they come up with promises and play politics with a common man. People like me have no hope from the government. We are just living a life, and surviving in this city. Everyone oppresses the poor,” Bhagwan Das said. 

Asked about if the Acche Din (good days) would come, he said “We have no hopes from the government. Only God knows how we are surviving.”