Hyderabad: Demanding reduction of toll tax on state highways, over 15 lakh transport vehicles in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are set to go off the roads indefinitely from 6am on March 30, Thursday.
The strike may bring to a halt transportation of commodities like rice, wheat, sugar, pulses, steel, sand, cement and all items except essential commodities. The South India Motor Transport Association (SIMTA) has decided to exempt essential commodities such as water, milk, petrol and vegetables from the strike.
However, the transportation of essential commodities will be stopped in a phased manner if the government did not respond to the strike. "If our president and office-bearers are arrested during the strike, we may first stop transportation of LPG gas followed by other essential commodities," SIMTA secretary G. Durga Prasad said.
In a first step towards pacifying the transporters, Telangana transport minister P. Mahender Reddy held a meeting on Monday with Telangana lorry owners association and SIMTA members. The minister ordered an enquiry into the allegations of excessive toll tax being collected on state highways from lorry drivers.
Lorry owners association leaders have alleged that Rs3,200 was collected towards toll tax to and fro from a single lorry on Godavarikhani-Hyderabad route (state highway) on which three toll plazas are located. TS joint transport commissioner C. Ramesh said the allegation was not true and an inquiry is being made into the issue.
There are allegations that higher rate of toll taxes are also being collected on Nakrekal-Addanki road where single toll plaza is collected.
"I don't think so much toll tax is being collected on the state highways. We are looking into the matter," said engineer in chief, roads and buildings (state roads) Ravinder Rao. However, SIMTA leader Durga Prasad said the toll plazas are misusing the enhancement clause in the agreement with the government that they can increase toll tax every year by 5 percent if the lorry population does not increase. "There is nearly 20 percent increase in population of lorries in the last two to three years and yet the toll tax rate is being hiked," he said.
Truckers all over the country have been demanding a reduced toll tax on highways for a few years now. The operators are even demanding its removal saying it is a cancer. However, they are ready to pay one time annual toll amount rather than paying it each time which is hampering the movement drastically.
However, the Central government has rejected the idea of scrapping toll on highways since it needs funds to expand the existing highways and build new ones. It also argues that users have to pay for better service, something that many of the commuters don't agree as the service is often not up to the mark.