Protests erupt over toll collection on new Biju Expressway

Sundergarh: Tension prevailed after locals protested collection of toll taxes on the recently-inaugurated Sambalpur-Rourkela Biju Expressway.

Locals under the aegis of Sundergarh Nagarika Mancha have called for a 12-hour Sundergarh bandh tomorrow and demanded complete withdrawal of toll collection. This apart, the locals have also warned to gherao the office of the construction company Larsen & Toubro Limited (L&T).

Citing that the collection of toll is unethical, locals alleged that they have been paying road tax for the expressway formerly known as National Highway 10 for more than one-and-a-half decade and it would be tough on their part to pay more taxes.

Sundergarh Nagarika Mancha, president Ashok Kumar Das said, “Why more tax? We have been paying taxes for the last 17 years. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had also stated during a meeting at Jharsuguda that the State government was bearing the entire cost of the expressway.”

Sources said that the expressway inaugurated by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on March 12 was constructed under Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) mode with the state government bearing 36 percent project cost while L&T paid 64 percent of the funds.

As a result, L&T has decided to collect nearly Rs 50 lakh rupees per day from the three toll gates for the next 19 years.

On the other hand, the district administration has promised to take action in this regard.

Sundergarh Collector, Vineet Bhardwaj said “People have demanded withdrawal of toll tax and we have apprised the government regarding the matter. But until a decision is taken, toll collection will continue.”