The FASTag mechanism, which is mandatory for us, continues to dole out free passes to a select few. In fact, as per the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), there are total 788 members of Parliament (MPs), but 1,136 radio frequency identification (RFID) tags have been distributed under the exempted category.
Pune-based activist Sanjay Shirodkar, who has been working on the toll issue, says, "As per the weekly report of NHAI, as on 31 January 2021, the Indian Highways Management Company Ltd (IHMCL) had issued 4,204 free FASTags to those in the exempted category. Earlier, there were just five to seven top office bearers like the President and the Prime Minister, who were exempted from paying toll on official duty. Now the list has increased to more than 25 categories."
"The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has been given 387 free FASTags, while there is one category, invalid carriages, which obtained 372 free tags. Who are the real beneficiaries of this free FASTags? Except for ambulances and vehicles used for emergency services, do exempting other vehicles justify the cause?" he asks.
According to Mr Shirodkar, no record is maintained at any toll plaza about how many commuters have not paid the toll and availed the exemption. "This is the biggest corruption," he says, "No authorities want to share real facts on total number of vehicles crossing any toll plaza and how much toll is collected. They do not even want to share an audited copy of this record, be it suo moto or under the Right to Information (RTI) Act."
FASTag is a device that employs radio frequency identification (RFID) technology for making toll payments directly while the vehicle is in motion.
reported, on 8 November 2019, the ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) released guidelines and standard operating procedure for issuance of FASTag for the exempted category of vehicles. It says, all categories of vehicles included under the category of ‘exempted from paying user fees’ should also be encouraged to use FASTag, adding, "This will have a good demonstrative effect on all other road users and will encourage them to use FASTag for seamless movement across user fee plazas." (Read: FASTag: Commoners Are Denied Benefit of Return Journey Discounts while VIPs Grab ‘Exempted RFID Tags’
As per NHAI report as on 31 January 2021, it had issued about 25 million FASTags. During the week to 31st January, it says, the average daily count of electronic toll collection (ETC) transactions was 4.92 million with an average daily ETC value of Rs79.32 crore.
There were 629 toll plazas with ETC system across the country as on end January this year.
During the week between 25th January to 31 January 2021, there were 12,619 complaints recorded on the 1033 helpline against bank issued FASTAgs. Most of these were related with recharge done on bank portal but not reflecting on the FASTag account.