FASTag: Forum threatens to disrupt toll collection

Vehicles queue up at the Surathkal toll plaza.

Tollgate Virodhi Horata Samiti members have threatened to disrupt toll collection at Surathkal from December 1 if FASTag is installed at the plaza.

The toll plaza on NH 66 at Surathkal is temporary and illegal, they insisted.

“We cannot remain blind to such blatant injustice. If the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) decides to go ahead with installing of FASTag, the electronic toll collection system, and deny toll exemption to the local commuters, we will intensify the protest by staging a relay hunger strike,” Samiti convener Muneer Katipalla warned at a press conference in Hotel Woodlands on Thursday.

Katipalla lamented that, despite their many protests and agitations, the illegal toll gate continues to operate at its own whims and fancies. He recollected that, in January 2018, the government, observing that two toll plazas in Surathkal and Hejamadi were within a distance of 10 km, had announced the merger of the two toll plazas. The NH guidelines insist that the distance between two toll plaza should be 40 km, he added.

In a subsequent meeting, convened by MP Nalin Kumar Kateel in the deputy commissioner’s office, the NHAI regional officer from New Delhi had promised that the contract to run the Surathkal toll plaza will be withdrawn. The NHAI, displaying total disregard to promises made by its own regional officer and MP Kateel, had gone ahead and renewed the contract to run the Surathkal toll plaza.

“MP Kateel and BJP MLA Dr Bharat Shetty, who had threatened to destroy Surathkal toll plaza, should realise that the toll plaza is a blot and a reflection of their failure,” he stressed.

Protesting the Centre’s decision to make FASTag mandatory at all toll plazas, Katipalla also said that, when the highways were in pathetic condition and service roads remained incomplete, the Centre should not go for installation of FASTag.

The Samiti members also pointed out that local commuters were exempted from paying toll at Kota and Sasthana plazas, which were located in close proximity. But the same exemption was denied to commuters in Surathkal and Mulki, they added.

“Toll should be collected from commuters only after completion of all pending works on the highway,” another activist urged.

Former MLA Vijaykumar Shetty said that each official in private had agreed that the toll plaza in Surathkal was a mistake. Yet, officials kept breaking their own guidelines and the promises to MP Kateel not to renew the contract of the illegal toll plaza in Surathkal, he added.

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