Jammu, September 29
Contrary to the statement of Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari last year that toll tax would not be levied at collection points that are located within 60 km of one another, the NHAI has been collecting tax on the Pathankot-Srinagar highway at two such plazas within that range.
Thandi Khui, also known as Sarore toll plaza, in Samba district was in the eye of storm when locals and members of the Yuva Rajput Sabha asked the NHAI to stop levying the toll as a bridge on the stretch had been damaged due to heavy rains in July and the traffic was diverted through internal roads. There were protests and demand to shut the plaza not only because of diversion of traffic but also as the plaza was within 60 km from another toll at Ban in Jammu district.
- Union Minister Nitin Gadkari had said last year that toll won’t be collected at collection points located within 60 km of one another.
- On the Pathankot-Srinagar highway, there are two such plazas within that range where the NHAI has been charging toll.
- The NHAI claims these are on different sections of the same NH. It also says toll can be imposed within 60 km if needed.
The NHAI, replying to an RTI query, has however stated that the two toll plazas are located on “two different sections” of the NH-44. The reply has the potential to create another controversy over the collection of toll. Interestingly, both the toll plazas are located on the NH-44. The RTI was filed by an activist, Rohit Choudhary.
NHAI project director YPS Jardon stated in his reply, “Any other toll plaza on the same section of the NH and in the same direction shall not be established within a distance of 60 km. 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 toll plaza within a distance of 60 km.”
While explaining the reason behind the two toll plazas within the 60-km range in Samba and Jammu, Jardon stated, “The toll plaza at Ban and that at Thandi Khui are located on two different sections of the highway, constructed through two different modes and are located in two different sections. Also, the rule itself provides the exemption for locating two fee plazas within 60 km if found necessary by the authority.” The official further states in the reply that criteria of 60 km distance between two fee plazas is not a sacrosanct parameter.
In March last year, Nitin Gadkari had announced in the Lok Sabha that there would be only one toll plaza within a distance of 60 km on the national highways. He had also stated that if there were more toll plazas within this distance, these would be closed down in three months.
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