Do not pay toll tax: Raj Thackeray tells Maharashtra people

Thursday 26 July 2012, 19:18 PM by

According to Mr. Patil, a Mumbai-based businessman, the long wait at toll booths is an add-on to the heavy Mumbai traffic. He owns a Toyota Fortuner and loves to glide his 3.0 litre diesel car across city streets. However, he feels that waiting at toll lines that seem almost unending is excruciating. Although he is not concerned about the money he has to pay at the toll plazas, the situation is quite different with many others. The odd-40-rupees-a-side burns a hole in the pocket of an average Mumbaikar. What's worse? They do not even know where the money is going. Coming to rescue the helpless commuters, Raj Thackeray, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena Chief, appeals to all Maharashtrians, “Do not pay toll taxes.” Even if this notion is short-lived, the feeling is beautiful.

The MNS Chief has asked people to stop paying toll taxes unless the government explains “where the money is going and for what purpose it is being used”. However, as all know, Thackeray is not a silent protester. Soon after his 'humble appeal' to the state's citizens, MNS party workers set out vandalising toll plazas in Navi Mumbai and on the outskirts of Mumbai. In his proposition, Thackeray is not making baseless accusations on the state government. His party had, in fact, surveyed several toll booths across different regions of the state and, as statistics suggest, tenures of these toll booths have long been over.

Thackeray points out that the contractors have been fudging the real figures of tax collections on tolls. This way, they have not only extended the tenure of the toll booths, but also revised the rates at various booths. In fact, collections from some toll booths went straight into the state government's funds. The MNS Chief said that the real practice should be to bring down the tax denominations slowly and then sooner or later do away with the taxes completely. He brought up the example of the famous Bandra-Worli sealink in Mumbai and quoted “The toll is collected with the promise that the roads would be maintained, but they are in a bad shape and in one year, the toll collections were used to pay salaries to teachers in government-run schools.”

Soon after, MNS activists were seen stationed at toll booths across the state that let vehicles pass the booths without paying the tax. The government was, however, prepared for agitation from MNS workers once Thackeray's statement went public. Policemen were deployed at various toll nakas and over 60 MNS workers were detained as they tried to stop collection proceedings in Mumbai. Situations were no different in Pune with around 40 preventive arrests made so far.

It is difficult to speculate whether the government and local contractors will make ends meet before it becomes a public outrage. With rising petrol prices and awful road conditions, the removal of toll tax might come as a sigh of relief for vehicle owners.

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