An unprecedented rise in the prices of petrol has left Ghulam Qadir worried about the survival of his family.
Qadir, 65, is the only breadwinner for a family of five and has been driving a bus for twenty-five years. However, the sudden price hike in petrol has caused many problems. “We don’t even have anything to eat now,” said Qadir, a resident of Soura area of Srinagar.
While Qadir earns around 1800 rupees per day, he is only able to save around 300 rupees at the end of the day since he spends the rest of his money on filling the petrol tank for the next day. “Life has become really difficult for us,” he said.
The soaring price of petrol has left around three lakh transport owners in Kashmir struggling for survival. During 2020, the lowest petrol price in Srinagar was around 73.04 rupees. However, the price has gone up to 94.04 rupees in February 2021 – a huge difference of 21 rupees.
Abdul Rasheed, a 65-year-old auto driver from Qamarwari has been looking after the needs of his family through his auto. However, on 5 August 2019 — when the limited autonomy of JK was removed and later due to the COVID-19 lockdown– survival has become difficult for daily wagers like him. “This auto is the only source of our income … the problems and issues have only increased here,” he added.
Gulzar Ahmad Dar, a 75-year-old auto driver from Bemina has also been facing problems since the petrol has become expensive. “There is already no work in Kashmir. We want to tell them to lessen the prices of petrol but who should we speak to? Nobody will listen to us,” he said.
Dar said that petrol gets wasted while the drivers keep roaming around to look for customers. “I swear on my auto, I hardly earn 300 rupees during the day,” he said.
Another auto driver, Farooq Ahmad Wani, a resident of Hazratbal believes that the continuous price hike in petrol is “oppressive”. “I charge my passengers the same amount that I used to ten years ago. Authorities should look into the matter,” he said.
Bilal Ahmad Channa, a 45-year-old bus driver from the Babdem area of Srinagar said that the bus drivers have suffered more than other daily wagers as the passenger fare has gone down. “We used to charge eight rupees per three kilometres. But the government changed that and now we only charge six rupees. There has been no increase in the rates since then,” he said.
Channa fills around twenty litres of diesel every day in his bus and is left with a few hundred rupees at the end of the day which is distributed among the driver, conductor, bus owner and kept aside for the documents. “How can we survive after this,” he asked.
Channa added: “The expenditure is really high but the income is low. The government should help us at least now.”