Private buses to stay off roads from tomorrow in protest against toll hike

Cuttack: Protesting against the decision to hike the fee collected at toll plazas, private bus operators in the State have decided to stop plying buses passing through all eight toll gates in the State set up by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) from tomorrow.

“If the hiked amount is collected forcefully, we will not ply the vehicles on those roads from tomorrow. The government will be responsible if any untoward situation arises at the gates”, said Odisha Private Bus Operators’ Association general secretary Debendra Sahu.

Around 6,000 private buses, which pay a monthly charge of Rs 1, 000 each at each toll gate now, will be affected by the hike in toll, he added.

The association had recently submitted a memorandum to the State government requesting withdrawal of the hiked fee.

The association had also protested against the setting up of five ‘illegal’ toll gates in the State in violation of the norms by the NHAI.

“We had met Transport minister Ramesh Majhi on May 27 and demanded removal of five toll plazas – Manguli, Panikoli, Srirampur, Pipili and Baragada – set up in violation of NHAI norms. But the government has yet to take a decision on our request,” Sahu said.

He, however, revealed that the chief secretary has called NHAI authorities for a meeting to discuss the issue on June 4.

Sahu also made it clear that the Association was not in favour of passing on a part of the toll burden to the passengers.

As per the notification issued by the Transport department on May 18, officials at the toll plazas would collect two-thirds of the fee from passengers and the rest from the owner.

Reacting to the decision of bus owners, Minister Ramesh Majhi said the government will take decision over illegal toll plazas after discussing with NHAI authorities. “The NHAI chairman is scheduled to meet chief secretary on June 4. The government will discuss the issues with him and accordingly decision will be taken”, Majhi said.