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By Dr Sanjay Chaturvedi

Toll or charges to use roads is nothing but scam. Government after government have allocated huge funds for infrastructure at the center and state level. In the last Union Budget of 2021, the government allocated whooping Rs 5 Lakh crore for infrastructure sector. The Budget usually make good either from revenue from taxes or borrowings which were paid over the years from revenue only. When such allocations are from the tx sources which are been paid by the taxpayers and all such huge infra projects are funded by the government which has used public money to built them then why to collect the toll?

A citizen under the constitution of India can travel to Indian tertiary freely. It is his fundamental right. Restricting it through Toll is actually taking away the fundamental rights. Always a via road is left for general citizens to use but goons and draconian Toll collectors never wants the general rule be known to the general public.

Recently Hon’ble Bombay High Court directed CAG enquiry into Mumbai Pune Expressway Toll collection in a PIL. Rightly so. Who will account as to how many vehicles have passed by. Now there is electronic Toll under Fastag which may give some clarity.

The question is not that how much Toll is collected. The question is why to collect the Toll at all. We understand that the projects are given on BOT system. Build Operate Transfer system is good for large Infrastructure projects under Public Private Partnership (PPP).  But when government can afford to borrow and repay, why to give such Tolls in the hands of Private Players? Will these players ever going to be satisficed with the income they generate? How may times the Toll Collection Contract on Mumbai Pune Express was renewed? On SeaLink in Mumbai, the Toll is increased every now and then. Is there any policy? Is the Toll Collection calculations are having rationale? Why to collect Rs70 one way when the return journey is Rs100/-? What is the rationale? No transparency. It is big scam in offing in the entire country. The transparency in Toll collections and the years of such collection. It is mandatory to keep board at such Toll Collections to display information as to how much collection happened till date and how much years of collection remaining but not that all Toll nakas are displaying. Fastag or no Fastag, who implements it? In the Fastag Lane, cash toll vehicles also become opportunistic and making mockery of people who have taken Fastag. The Toll operator usually allow the cash toll in Fastag Lane. Trucks and other vehicles are allowed in the Car lane.

As per Rule 8(2) of the National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules, 2008 – “Any other fee plaza on same section of national highway and in the same direction shall not be established within a distance of sixty kilometers:

Provided that where the executing authority deems necessary, it may for reasons to be recorded in writing, establish or allow the concessionaire to establish another fee plaza within a distance of sixty kilometers:

Provided further that a fee plaza may be established within a distance of sixty kilometres from another fee plaza if such fee plaza is for collection of fee for a permanent bridge, bypass or tunnel.” This rule is applicable for Build, Operate & Transfer (BOT) projects taken up on or after 05.12.2008 and all public funded projects.

Public pays in taxes which is allocated for Infrastructure like this and public also made to pay for the Tolls, is nothing but double jeopardy and double taxation.