(Clockwise from top left) Poof, gone! The recent increase in fuel prices had a seemingly magical effect, making traffic disappear from the otherwise crowded Tower intersection on M.A Jinnah Road; gas station attendants sat idle because cars and motorcycles had also vanished and no one’s there to refill their fuel tanks; even butchers and grocers sit in wait for customers who were scared away by the hike; while denizens queue for free wheat flour being distributed by a local NGO, on Saturday.—PPI / Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
(Clockwise from top left) Poof, gone! The recent increase in fuel prices had a seemingly magical effect, making traffic disappear from the otherwise crowded Tower intersection on M.A Jinnah Road; gas station attendants sat idle because cars and motorcycles had also vanished and no one’s there to refill their fuel tanks; even butchers and grocers sit in wait for customers who were scared away by the hike; while denizens queue for free wheat flour being distributed by a local NGO, on Saturday.—PPI / Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: “They may call it a ‘petrol bomb’ that is dropped on the nation by the government every fortnight, but really even if we want to get some petrol to pour over ourselves and end our misery, we are forced to think again, not about the preciousness of life, but about spending so much on petrol,” said a father of four, a salaried employee at a local bank, on Saturday.

While speaking to Dawn, he added: “I have not used my car for days now. I am going to work on my old motorcycle. If things continue like this, I might sell the car. I mean, what’s the point of keeping it?”

At the strike of midnight on Sept 15, petrol prices were raised from Rs305.36 per litre to Rs331.38 while diesel went up from Rs311.84 to Rs329.18.

People were still reeling over crossing Rs300 per litre and now they are bracing themselves for what else is coming up. Crossing Rs400 looks like very much on the cards.

Record-smashing hike in petrol price renders debilitating effects on ordinary people

Most vehicles coming for their fill at a petrol pump at Korangi Crossing were motorcycles.

“I need to get to my place of work on I.I. Chundrigar Road every day so I have to get fuel. There are no ifs or buts about it,” said Sikandar Masi while shaking his head regrettably.

Another customer, Nasir Ali, had Rs200 in his hand as he moved ahead in the line to the pump. “I know it will only give me 30kms but I can only spend this much on fuel right now,” he said.

Akeel, a young man, who said that he worked as a gardener at people’s homes, only bought Rs190 worth of fuel. “I’ll see for how long I can carry on like this. If not, then I’ll sell my motorbike and buy a cycle,” he said.

“I work at a restaurant at Do Darya,” said Rafiullah. “It has come to this that what I used to pay for a week’s fuel, I am paying for a day’s worth of fuel. But what to do?” He shrugged.

Meanwhile, an employee of the pump said that he had been noticing a drop in people coming there for fuel since morning. “Maybe, anticipating another hike in prices, most people bought more fuel yesterday, maybe they have started going out less, can’t say now. But I’m seeing fewer people coming here today at least,” he said.

Raja Sikander, who drives a loading pickup, told Dawn that his vehicle was his earning tool, which he could not do without. “I have to buy this expensive fuel to work. This fuel is associated with so much more than just our vehicles. Now you’ll see an increase in the cost of daily use commodities, too,” he said. “As for me, if I demand an increase for my deliveries, I will be told that I’m being unfair. And if I don’t increase the money for my services, I will be making Rs40 or so per trip after cutting the fuel costs from my earnings. It is not enough to buy bread for my family,” he shared.

Bilal, a rickshaw driver, also said that his earnings depended on his rickshaw. But he said that he tried to run it on CNG instead of petrol. “Because, even if I ask for Rs50 more, because of the fuel hike, my passengers tell me to get lost. They then catch the Red Bus, which takes them all over town for Rs50 only. I think the government is doing all this deliberately to promote its Red Bus,” the poor man shared his limited thinking.

Sitting in the back seat of her Toyota Yaris with her toddler, Noor Farjad said that no one was okay with the fuel hike, be they poor, middle-class or rich.

“But we all have quietly accepted it as our fate as if there is no other way around it. We can’t stop living. The car has to go out to drop and pick children from school, it is used for doing grocery, for going to work, etc. But we can demand an explanation for such big hikes, can’t we?” she said.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2023

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