The BJP-led government in Maharashtra on Friday announced the complete closure of 12 toll collection booths across the state from the midnight of May 31. This apart, cars, jeeps, light motor vehicles (LMVs) and buses of Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation will be excluded from the payment of toll tax on other 53 toll booths from the same day. However, the commuters travelling in and out of the Mumbai city from five entry points and those using the Mumbai Pune Expressway will continue to pay toll tax till the government receives report in this regard from a high level committee headed by the additional chief secretary (public works) by July 31.
Fadnavis said of the 12 toll booths 11 are operational on the roads developed by the state undertaking Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) and one by public works department. As far as 53 toll booths are concerned, 27 are developed by Public Works Department and 25 by MSRDC. However, the chief minister did not specify whether the toll tax will be increased for heavy vehicles to compensate the loss or if it will be borne by the government. The government has also not made any provisions in the annual budget presented for 2015-16 to make the revenue loss on account of the closure of toll booth and exemption of some vehicles.
It must be mentioned here that BJP in particular in the run up to the state assembly election last year had promised to ensure a “toll free Maharashtra”. However, after assuming power Fadnavis clarified that party never gave any assurance in this regard but had promised that the government will close some booths where excess toll is collected from the commuters. Fadnavis had alleged that Congress-NCP government during its 15-year rule had entered into ‘pro-contractor’ agreements without buy back provision and while that benefitted contractors, the commuters were burdened with the payment of high toll tax.
There are about 168 toll booths in the state. The Congress-NCP government, ahead of the assembly elections, had closed down 44 of 168 toll booths. Incidentally, Congress-NCP alliance government had proposed to bring in new toll policy exempting light motor vehicles but it failed to do so.