Petrol brings long-forgotten paisa back on podium

PUNE: Paisa is back in the reckoning in the age of multi-crore rupee scams, thanks to the spurt in fuel prices and its drop-by-drop downward revision over the past few days.

The declining trend in fuel prices started on May 30 with one paisa. “Cruel joke,” read the headlines of leading dailies. Crude indeed for the middle class, after petrol and diesel pinched pocket of people for days.

From pumps to vegetable markets, people felt the heat of fuel price rise everywhere. Trader Zafar Altaf Khan found his two-wheeler covering less distance despite spending Rs200 every week on petrol.

Then came the “relief” in the form of a paisa. “Now, we are counting in paise every day, years after even 50 paise coins disappeared,” says Jaya Prakash, an entrepreneur using his car every day for work.

Techie Kaushal Kishore is simply amazed. “These days, we talk about seven-digit pay packages during campus interviews. Police pegged the scam of DSK Group of companies at over Rs2,000 crore. But when it comes to fuel price revision, it is in paltry paise,” says the IBM techie.

From May 30 to June 9, the petrol price has dropped by Rs1.38 per litre in Pune. The diesel rates came down by Rs1.07 per litre in the same period. The maximum gain of customers in the recent days was on Saturday — a total of 39 paise per litre in petrol and 32 paise per litre in diesel. (See graphic)

Homemaker Rita Pradhan is using the “opportunity” to master her seven-year-old daughter in subtractions in decimals. “I have been noting down prices of diesel and petrol every day from May 31. I ask my daughter, Asmita, to find out the drop in prices each morning. Thus, she is mastering maths through fun in the last lap of her summer vacation,” says Rita with a smile.

The “paisa bolta hai” trend has injected some “wisdom” in the market dynamics, too. Shams Ur Rehman of Salunke Vihar now tenders exact change to vegetable markets. “If the fuel prices are revised in paise, why should I part with even Re 1,” says Shams.

Ditto with Dattaji, an autorickshaw driver. “I wouldn’t mind taking Rs2-3 more or less for shortage of change till a few days back. But now I take the exact fare. Ab, ek paisa bhi nahin chhorta (I don’t let go a paisa now),” he quips before driving away on FC Road.

Air Marshal (retired) Bhushan Gokhale says, “Like each drop of fuel, each paisa matters now.” The situation reminds him of Bollywood songs on ‘paise’.

“On a serious note, every penny is crucial for aviation fuel. Airlines tend to refuel more in tax-friendly places like Dubai or Abu Dhabi,” he told TOI over phone from New York.

Bhushan Patwardhan of Savitribai Phule Pune University advocated to make the discussions on fuel price redundant through cycling and walking. “People should pledge not to use automobiles for up to 5km. It will be a pocket-friendly and healthy proposition. I have become a weekend driver. So, fuel prices do not matter to me.”

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