Distressed Public Supports Daring Dictate On Toll Booth
A daring order by one of the most popular politician in the Indian state of Maharashtra drew huge public support on Tuesday as toll booths across the state remain closed. The people of the state stopped paying mandatory tax which was levied in lieu of the construction costs of the public roads and highways.
Raj Thackeray, chief of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), called a press conference on Tuesday morning and asked public not to pay toll tax till the government comes out with information as to where the money went. Immediately after his statement, MNS workers forced most of the toll booths in the state. It included booths on the much touted Pune-Mumbai Expressway. It also started a frenzy of sorts on social networking sites welcoming the move. First time in a decade, vehicles were seen plying on highways without paying a single dime.
Thackeray had attacked the toll collection policy of the state government in the past as well saying that the tax collection has surpassed the targeted amount several times. A bunch of activists had alleged the same saying that there was no transparency in the process.
"I am not against toll collection. But a citizen who pays the toll should know where that money is going and for what purpose it is used," Raj was shown as saying on TV channels.
Last month, another set of agitators had given a deadline of July 15 to scrap the toll booths. Bandatatya Karadkar, a Warkari leader had said, “I have written letters and appealed to the Chief Minister for over six months to look into this issue but he has never given even a minute. We have lost hopes with Chhagan Bhujbal, Minister for Public Works as he has failed us many a times.”
Karadkar was joined by retied Justice B G Kolse Patil and 25 civil organizations which include Grahak Panchayat, the Krantiveer Pratishthan, the Vyasanmukt Yuvak Sangh, Maharashtra and the Shetkari Sanghatana. They opposed the exaggerated and sighted the example of toll booth at Perane Phata which was mandated to collect Rs 100 Crores for expenditure on roads. However, the same booth has collected over Rs 500 Crores till now.
The public is more enraged because none of the neighboring states like Gujarat, Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh have as high toll taxes as Maharashtra with equal or more development. For example, a person driving four wheeler from Pune to Mumbai has to pay Rs 170 (about $3.4) but in Gujarat, the same vehicle has to pay Rs 60 (around $1.2) for traveling from Ahmedabad to Baroda.
The opposition to tax collection has been centered on several points. They include:
Public is being exploited by toll charges.
There is no strict implementation of policies formulated by Legislatures.
Private agencies were hired to collect toll from booths. Many of these agencies hire goons to wrest money from the passengers.
As per government rules, contractors are not allowed to collect toll till roadwork is 98 per cent complete. However, contractors collect toll even when only 32 per cent work was complete.
According to guidelines, if the vehicle returns from the same road within 24 hours, they get a 50 per cent exemption in toll. This is not happening.
Even after charging heavy toll, road construction remains faulty. According to police records, 231 people lost their lives in the stretch from Shikrapur, Shirur and Lonikand police station in Pune district alone.
Tags: India , Politics , Maharashtra , MNS , Road , Agitatio , Toll
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