Toll collection: people protest in Sasthana

Toll collection: people protest in Sasthana

Police personnel deployed at Sasthana tollgate in Udupi district.

Members of the Heddari Horata Samiti and 120 other organisations staged a protest on Friday against toll collection from local vehicles at the Sasthana toll plaza.

MP Shobha Karandlaje, who addressed the activists, said that the Navyug construction company, which is in-charge of the four-laning of NH 66 from Talapady to Kundapur, had failed to complete the work on schedule. The work on the road should have been completed as early as 2013, but five years later, the work continues to move at a snail’s pace, criticised Karandlaje.

“The service roads and dividers on several stretches of the NH 66 have remained incomplete,” she pointed out.

The MP said that she has appealed to Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari to blacklist the construction company. “The minister, however, was unable to do so as the company had already completed 60% of the work and blacklisting then would be against the law,” she insisted.

Udupi MLA Raghupathi Bhat too accused the Navyug company of failing to complete the work.

“Initially, five flyovers were proposed to be constructed in Udupi. Later, however, it was reduced as the company could not follow the guidelines of the proposal. In spite of collecting Rs 13 lakh to Rs 14 lakh as toll on a daily basis, the company claims to be running at a loss,” said Bhat.

“The unscientific construction and lack of maintenance have resulted in many accidents on the NH 66 at different locations,” he added.

Bhat urged the protesters not to yield to any pressure regarding paying the toll. He also accused the police of facilitating the forceful collection of toll by promising security at the toll plaza. The police should not work hand in glove with the toll collectors, he stressed.

“The local vehicles plying within a radius of 10 km from the toll plaza in the district should be exempted from paying toll,” he demanded.

Kota Srinivasa Poojary, leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, said that he was constant communication with the district administration regarding the injustice meted out to local vehicles.

The MLC, however, threatened to intensify the protest if the local vehicles were not exempted from paying toll.

Since many had extended support to the protest, a majority of the business establishments from Mabukala to Kota remained closed in support of the protest. The police detained the activists and later released them on bail.

In the wake of the demand from the activists, Deputy Commissioner Priyanka Mary Francis invited Navyug company officials and elected representatives for a discussion on Friday.

Raghupathi Bhat, who attended the meeting, later told DH that the Navyug company had agreed to waive the toll for local vehicles plying up to a radius of 5 km of the toll plaza.

“A monthly pass priced at Rs 255 will be issued by the company to private vehicles and another pass for Rs 1,395 will be issued to tourist vehicles. The association of taxi drivers will launch an indefinite protest against such expensive passes from December 22,” he informed.