A group of activists and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from Mumbai and Pune have come together to support the demand from All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) to change the mode of toll collection and provide them with Annual Toll Permit (ATP) with upfront payment.
The AIMTC, whose representatives met the activists Monday morning, said, they had met several senior ministers, including Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and expressed their willingness to compensate the government for the entire toll collection at toll plazas of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) across the country on upfront basis. They had made this offer in order to reduce the huge losses suffered by transporters because of delays at each toll collection centre. The AIMTC is on record to say that this will allow the government not to collect toll from private cars and other vehicles.
This proposal fully supports the drive towards a digital and cashless economy initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It gives the government time to put in place effective Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) facilities, as per the report of the apex committee on ETC, 2008.
The present process of collecting toll is not transparent and prone to corruption and malpractices by toll collectors and concessionaires. Based on a study done by the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata in 2016, frequent stoppages at toll barriers result in a loss of man-hours and fuel worth a whopping Rs1.45 lakh crore per year. As against this, the toll revenue collected by the government in 2014-15 was a mere Rs14,717 crore (this information has been obtained under the Right to Information act and from the NHAI/Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) website).
Reports by the Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG) and the Principal Accountant General have repeatedly pointed to the mismanagement of crores of rupees in administration and collection of tolls.
The activists were disturbed to learn from Raman Khosla of the Maharashtra Rajya Truck Tempo Tanker Bus Vahatuk Mahasangh about a new report from Mumbai quoting experts, who studied vehicle movement on the Bandra-Worli Sea Link and Mumbai–Pune Expressway, which states that there was a saving of Rs3 crore worth of fuel in the 10 day toll waiver from 9th November to 18 November 2016.
The group of activists include Sanjay Shirodkar, Vivek Velankar, Shriniwas Ghanekar, Anil Galgali, Pravin Wategaonkar, Sucheta Dalal, Mahesh Jadhav, Ashok Datar, Ashok Ravat, AV Shenoy, and Jagdeep Desai among others.
“Considering all the above mentioned points, we strongly demand that the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Minister of Road Transport and NITI Aayog should accept the AIMTC’s offer. It will help mitigate the hardship caused to people and businesses after demonetisation and reduce the loss to the economy in terms of manpower and fuel,” the activists said.