NPP protests outside NHAI seeks abolition of Toll Plazas
Jammu, October 17: “By offering to reduce the rates of the toll plaza at Sarore besides exemptions to locals, the Govt was once again trying to silence the people of Jammu who had been protesting against the establishment of multiple toll plazas in the city of temples”. This was stated by Harsh Dev Singh Chairman JKNPP and Yash Paul Kundal State President Young Panthers while addressing a protest demonstration outside the NHAI headquarters at Jammu.
He said that the real issue was an installation of several toll plazas in Jammu region in violation of the 2008 guidelines of NHAI and the unwarranted taxing of the people besides undue inconvenience caused to them which had not been addressed. He said that rate cut was a ploy used by the Govt to first get public acceptance for installation of toll plaza whose rates could always be enhanced subsequently as happened in case of Ban Toll Plaza. He further regretted that the govt had failed to allay the apprehensions of people regarding govt’s proposal of opening additional toll plazas at Hiranagar, Ring road and Akhnoor road.
While raising slogans against the BJP, NHAI and Union Ministry for surface Transport the angry protesters demanded the immediate closure of the Toll Plaza in the interests of the people of Jammu region. They raised slogans like “Kesri Jazia nahin chalega, nahin chalega”, “Loot Khasoot bandh, Karo, bandh Karo”, “BJP Hai Hai” etc.
Lambasting the NHAI for levying ‘Jazia’ upon the people, Harsh Dev Singh said that both the present BJP government and its nodal agency had connived together to organize loot and legalize plunder in the name of multiple Toll Plazas exclusively conceptualized for Jammu region. “You are extorting money from the commuters in the name of toll tax. Can you explain and justify the installation of the site just ahead of Lakhanpur Plaza and just behind Ban Toll Plaza in violation of your own norms and guidelines? We will not tolerate this. Multiple Toll Plazas have only sparked public outrage and caused unrest in the entire Jammu region. It has to go. Close it or get ready to face consequences”, warned Harsh.
Expressing his serious concern over other Toll Plazas which were under pipeline, Harsh Dev Singh said that the Saffron government was testing the waters at Sarore before going in full swing with the installation of several more tax collection sites in Jammu’s vicinity. “A furore in Sarore is a warning sign. In view of the shabby road stretches, improper banking of the road curves and rising road accidents on the National Highways of Jammu province, the establishment of Toll Plazas has triggered widespread criticism over the functioning of NHAI.
Is it an vicious outcome of contractor-NHAI nexus which is enjoying the patronage of the present government to subserve the vested interests?”, questioned Harsh. Rebuking the ugly episode at Sarore Toll Plaza couple of days ago, Singh said the incident had raised many eyebrows over the behaviour of the site contractor who dared to abuse and manhandle the bus driver in full public view. Considering the dubious notoriety earned by the NHAI, he demanded high-level probe into the tendering process of the nodal agency in the allocation of contracts for the Sarore and other Toll Plazas.
Seeking immediate abolition of Sarore Toll Plaza, Harsh Dev Singh said it would not only break the back of the people with hefty taxes but affect pilgrimage tourism which had been a backbone of J&K’s economy for decades. He accused the GoI of doling discrimination to Jammu region in view of the disbanding of toll plazas in Kashmir with only one such toll functional in the valley. He regretted that the government once again resorted to the policy of appeasement to keep Kashmiris in good humour. “While the assurances of socio-economic reforms, abundant employment opportunities, premier educational institutions, hospitals and tertiary healthcare institutes, etc are being given by the government to the people of Kashmir, the Dogras were put under the burden of tax to compensate for the development of the valley. We will not allow the government to rob the pockets of our people for placating Kashmiris anymore. Enough is enough”, Harsh roared.
Prominent among those who spoke on the occasion included Rajesh Padgotra, Gagan Pratap, Capt. Anil Gour, Shanker Chib, Dharam Singh Bittu, Capt. Sultan Singh, Surinder Chouhan, Khajoor Singh, Nirmal Kishore, Rampaul Sharma, Subash Singh, Rashpaul Singh, Mohinder Singh, Udhayveer Sambyal, Partap Singh, Rohit Sharma, Rakesh Verma, besides others.