Rizwanudeen, a 37-year old worker who delivers food in the southern Indian city of Chennai, struggles to pay his rent and loan instalments at the end of every month as he has been hit by the double whammy of higher fuel prices and fewer food orders.
Millions of weekly wage earners like Rizwanudeen who make their living ferrying goods or people throughout India have been hit hard by record high fuel prices which are among the highest in Asia, having risen by a third in the 15 months since the coronavirus first struck the country.
The average cost of a litre of gasoline in Mumbai has risen above 100 rupees ($1.37) this month, 50 to 70% more than in Bangkok, Hanoi and Manila. State and federal taxes, which have doubled since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, account for more than 60% of India’s retail fuel price.
With the federal government facing ballooning healthcare costs tied to its ongoing battle with COVID-19, and committed to vast farm and other subsidies, a finance ministry official said there was little scope for a meaningful tax cut that might ease the pain on low earners.
“I used to spend 1,500 rupees ($20.58) a week on petrol before the pandemic, now I spend 2,000 rupees. I am already earning less due to fewer orders due to lockdowns,” Rizwanudeen lamented, saying a third of his earnings went on fuel.