GUWAHATI, July 15: Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti leader Akhil Gogoi has pledged to close down all toll gates in Assam through democratic means even as he lambasted the Centre for reopening the toll gate at Raha in Nagaon district.
Addressing reporters here on Sunday, the firebrand activist also took a dig at the state government, political parties and organisations for remaining silent on the development, which he said was not in the interest of the common commuter.
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) reopened the toll gate at Rontholi in Raha on NH-37 on July 12 amid opposition by organisations such as KMSS and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP).
KMSS had since 2014been raising its voice against the Centre’s move to open four toll gates in the state, including the one at Raha. Owing to intense protests by KMSS along with some other state organisations, the toll gate at Raha had to be closed then.
“Over these three and a half years, we have probably saved crores of rupees for commuters on the route but no one has acknowledged our efforts so far. Now, we vehemently condemn the Centre for reopening the toll gate as this is akin to loot, for people travelling to Nagaon and beyond from Guwahati,” Gogoi said.
The KMSS leader also appealed to all state organisations and conscious citizens to stage a united protest against the reopening of the toll gate in Raha on July 22.
Gogoi questioned the authorities regarding the absence of an alternative road if at all toll tax was to be imposed on commuters.
“Without an alternative road how can the Centre impose such a toll tax on commuters travelling to and from Upper Assam through NH 37,” the KMSS leader asked.
He further questioned the imposition of toll tax when there are no roadside amenities such as waiting sheds, truck and bus terminuses.
“Besides, there are no metal beam crash barriers in about 80 per cent of the area, no trees/plants grown on the divider in about 90 per cent area, no road safety devices, roadside cranes or emergency call booths,” Gogoi said.
“So, devoid of all such amenities, why should one pay toll? And why is everyone silent on this issue I fail to fathom,” he asked.
Gogoi also alleged that the flooding at 8th Mile, 11th Mile, Jorabat trijunction, Sonpaur, parts of Jagiroad and Raha town was caused by the failure on the part of the authorities to create a drainage system for the rain water sliding down from the surrounding hills.
Sources say that the 57.132 km toll plaza at Raha has been constructed with a cost of about Rs 1036.12 crore.
The toll plaza has been constructed to facilitate toll collection and manage traffic volume. It comprises four lanes dedicated to the electronic toll collection system. Apart from them, two free lanes will be there on either side for the local vehicles.
Amid the uproar, the NHAI authorities have however decided to temporarily exempt all the four-wheeler light motor vehicles (both commercial and non-commercial) registered within Nagaon from the toll fees until further notice, reports say. (Courtesy: TST)