Price of the fuel went up by ₹9 in the past two days
The price of compressed natural gas (CNG) skyrocketing to ₹80 a kg in the city and to ₹83 in Thrissur has caused a sense of outrage among operators of CNG-run autorickshaws and private buses.
They feel left in the lurch, since the price of the fuel rose by ₹9 in the past two days alone.
Among those who invested in CNG autos in the past few years was V. Murugan, a native of Pachalam in the city. “I opted for a CNG auto in 2019, when the government began pushing it as a green fuel. A kilogram of CNG was priced at ₹44 then. Contrary to assurances by the government, its price kept on increasing, while the latest hike of ₹9 was the most outrageous,” he said.
“I now have to spend ₹300 a kg for CNG daily, as compared to just above ₹200 till a few days ago. It now appears that diesel, although more polluting, is a better option, since spare parts of CNG autos are much costlier,” he added.
Bus operators who chose to retrofit CNG kits by investing ₹5 lakh in each bus for the process during the past two years too are in a catch-22 situation. It was just three months ago that Maheen K.A., who has been operating a city bus during the past nine years, installed a CNG kit in his bus. “The fuel cost ₹68 then, and it was my last hope to continue operating the bus. Paying ₹80 a kg will make the entire exercise futile for many dozens of bus operators like me. This has also resulted in the recent bus fare hike having little effect. With this, I have dropped my plan to purchase a CNG-run lorry despite it being less polluting,” he said.
Another bus operator, Noushad Attuparambath, who converted eight of his 15 buses to CNG, spoke of how CNG cost ₹15 lesser in cities like Mumbai and New Delhi as compared to the rate in Kerala. “The fuel was the last hope for bus operators. Now, most of us will have no option but to opt for submitting G-form and keep away from services,” he said.
Firms that invested heavily in licences and other infrastructure to set up CNG-retrofitting units in Kerala too are in crisis due to the unprecedented hike in the price of the fuel. “My firm installed CNG kits in 70 buses during the past two years. Bus operators, who spent ₹5 lakh per bus for retrofitting, now accuse us for giving them the false hope of lessening operating expense by switching to CNG. Returning to diesel as the fuel source will further burden them with another ₹2 lakh,” said Geo John Palatty, owner of a firm.
“On our part, each firm had to pay ₹25 lakh to obtain the Centre’s licence per category of vehicle. This is apart from the capital investment for workshop, equipment, and skilled labour,” Mr. John added.