September 20, 2018 / 5:17 AM / 3 months ago

As petrol prices sky-rocket, Indians look for ways to ease the pain

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Many Indians are switching off air conditioners in cars and going to gas pumps across state borders in a bid to save money, as petrol prices across the country hover at record-high levels.

FILE PHOTO: A worker checks a 500 Indian rupee note as a man fills diesel in containers at a fuel station in Kolkata, India, August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

Protests against high petrol and diesel prices paralyzed many parts of India earlier this month, shutting businesses, government offices and schools. The government blamed the high pump prices on the rising cost of crude oil and a weakening rupee.

Kalyan Chakrabarty, a 39-year old cab driver in the eastern state of Odisha, said he switches off his car’s air conditioner intermittently while traveling so that he can save “one or two liters” of fuel.

For 42-year old Brij Nandan from Delhi, abandoning his scooter for a bicycle was the only option.

“My fuel bills kept rising steadily and once it crossed 2,000 rupees ($27.61) a month, I could no longer afford riding a scooter,” said Nandan, who supports a family of five.

Fuel prices are not uniform across the country due to variable state taxes.

Anirudha Bora, a truck owner from the northeastern Indian city of Guwahati, says he crosses the state border to save money.

“I drive across the road to Meghalaya state. I save about 400 rupees when I fill 100 liters of fuel,” Bora told Reuters.

States like Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and West Bengal this week cut taxes on fuel to reduce the burden, but the federal government has so far not done so

Taxes on petrol and diesel, which account for more than a third of retail fuel prices, are one of the biggest sources of income for state and central governments.

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Reporting by Zarir Hussain in Guwahati, Jatindra Dash in Bhubaneswar, Malini Menon in New Delhi, Subrata Nagchoudhury in Kolkata; Writing by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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