Toll coffers swell despite protest

Agitators block two of the eight booths for three hours, others function smoothly

Lanes one and two at the toll plaza before the Trumpet Bridge near Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) were blocked for more than three hours between 10.30 am and 2 pm on Monday.

 

Close to 150 members of the KSTDC Taxi Drivers’ Association and Lorry Owners’ Association protested against what they claim is an illegal collection of toll by the National Highways Authority of India. The police took 76 protesters into custody and released them by evening.
 The agitation, staged two days after the start of toll collection, had little impact. Apart from two of the eight lanes, the rest functioned smoothly. 

Air passengers faced no problem finding a taxi at BIA as Meru, Easy Cab and other private taxi operators plied their vehicles as usual. The KSTDC taxi drivers too returned to the airport minutes after the protest. 

The agitation started two hours later than scheduled. Activists and supporters of the protest handed out pamphlets to those inside every vehicle that arrived at the toll plaza. Any attempt to disrupt law and order was thwarted as close to a 100 police personnel were deployed at the poll booths.

G R Shanmugappa, president of the Federation of Karnataka State Lorry Owners and Agents Association, said: “There is no service road, rest rooms or any facility here. The entire road leading to the airport is not usable. It is a daylight robbery by the NHAI as collection of toll is simply illegal. No other airport road in the country has a toll plaza that charges vehicles returning from the airport.”

The association members have decided to submit a memorandum to the government asking it to revoke the decision to allow collection of toll, failing which, “protests will be intensified”. 

However, the associations are now focusing on smaller and temporary demands like issuing a daily pass to commercial airport taxis.

Post protest, KSTDC taxis were back in BIA by 2.30 pm. 

When asked why the association was not sticking to its original plan to stop taxis plying to the airport, Shabbir Ahmed, a KSTDC taxi driver at the airport, said: “We participated in the protest and all those who were not taken into custody were asked to return to work. Till further orders, all the 550 cabs will continue to their services to the airport.”

Guv’s convoy stopped, too

Operators at the toll plaza did not even spare the Governor’s convoy on Monday. 
While Governor H R Bhardwaj was not in the vehicle, his convoy was stopped at the toll booth. The incident took place at 10.30 am when the convoy was returning from the airport after dropping the governor to board a flight to New Delhi. 

Without realising that it was the governor’s convoy, the toll gate operator closed the gate to collect the fare. It was only after a few police officials told the operator that the governor’s convoy did not have to pay the fare, the vehicles were allowed to pass. 

The traffic pile-up at the toll gates did not help matters either. The vehicles comprising the convoy, which usually plies in a single file, was separated by other vehicles adding to the confusion. 

Defending the toll booth operators, one of the drivers told Deccan Herald: “It is not the fault of the operator as he cannot see if it is just one car or a convoy. The traffic police may have not informed officials at the toll booth because of  the protest. But we got a taste of what others go through, as we are not accustomed to any delay.”


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