Truckers, cabbies threaten protest over Toll
Transporters, including tourist taxi owners, bus operators and truckers, have threatened to go on an indefinite strike if the government goes ahead with the toll plan.
BENGALURU: Hoping to avert what they fear could be a disastrous one-two blow to their operations, what with fuel fuel prices in free flight, transporters in the state have decided to resist the government’s efforts to impose toll charges on selected stretches of state highways. Transporters, including tourist taxi owners, bus operators and truckers, have threatened to go on an indefinite strike if the government goes ahead with the toll plan. “The transportation sector has already been burdened with rising operational expenses and is on the verge of collapse, ” said G R Shanmukhappa, president Federation of Karnataka State Lorry Owners and Agents Associations (FKSLOAA).
“We appeal to the government to roll back its decision to collect toll on state highways. We will be left with no option but to fight it out if our pleas fall on deaf ears.” Shanmukhappa said a delegation of transporters would meet the chief minister on Wednesday and bring to his notice problems that the sector faces. The transporters say their operational costs have already increased manifold from the steep rise in diesel prices. The government last week decided to convert 17 stretches of state highways, with a cumulative length of 1,400 km, into toll roads. It entered an agreement with private agencies set up toll booths on five stretches including Karkala-Padubidri (28km),Saundatti-Pattadakal (130km), Haveri-Hanagal (33km), Dharawad-Saundatti (36km), and Hoskote-Chintamani (52km).
It immediately issued orders to collect user charges on these stretches and toll booths were opened on October 11. The toll booths shut after farmers and transporters protested in Karkalla and Padubidri.
On its part, the government argues that it developed the roads with funds borrowed from World Bank and Asian Development Bank and levying toll charges would help it service these debts. With charges of 60p/km for cars and Rs 3.26/km for heavy vehicles, Karnataka Road Development Corporation Ltd (KRDCL) expects to mop up Rs 20.3 crore from the five toll stretches in the first year.
KRDCL officials maintain that the government is unlikely to roll back the proposal. “It has been a proposal from as far back as 2010,” KRDCL managing director M Ganapathi said. “We are just taking follow-up action.”