While demanding relaxation in paying toll for motorists from Mangaluru and Udupi at the Hejmady and Surathkal toll plazas on the National Highway 66, members of the Tollgate Virodhi Horata Samiti, Surathkal, said on Friday that they will soon launch an agitation demanding the closure of the toll gate near the National Institute of Technology Karnataka, Surathkal.
Talking to reporters, Muneer Katipalla, convenor of the samiti, said that following agitation by the samiti in 2018 the State government proposed closure of the toll gate at Surthkal and merge it with the toll gate at Hejmady, which is nine kilometres away, on the National Highway 66. Though the Union Government agreed to the proposal, no action has been taken so far in merging the toll gates. Toll continues to be collected at the NIT-K toll gate by offering relaxation to Mangaluru motorists.
With the introduction of FasTag at toll gates, NHAI is withdrawing the concession offered to locally registered vehicles. From February 15, the NHAI proposes to collect toll from local motorists, including inter-city buses and taxis, at the Talapady, Surathkal and Hejmady toll gates on National Highway 66.
Collection of toll, Mr. Katipalla said, will hit people hard, especially those regularly travelling on private buses between Udupi and Mangaluru. These commuters have to pay ₹ 8 more for every round trip between the two cities. Motorists, especially those in Padubidri, Mulky, Surathkal and Talapady, will also have to bear the brunt of this toll collection.
“We will not allow this to happen. Toll collection from local people can happen only with our arrest,” he said. The samiti will shortly start an agitation seeking the removal of the Surathkal Toll Gate and also relief to other motorists.
Harish Putran from Mulky Abhivrudhi Nagarika Samiti said that Member of Parliament and State BJP president Nalin Kumar Kateel and other elected representatives of the two districts were lacking in commitment in resolving the issue.
The meeting of Mr. Kateel with Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari on the toll gate and other issues on Thursday is an eyewash in the light of call for protests against toll collection, said T.N. Ramesh, joint convenor of the samiti.
Meanwhile, Mr. Kateel has in a statement said that Mr. Gadkari has directed NHAI authorities to call a special meeting on the issue of closing the toll gate near NIT-K in Surathkal.
Mr. Kateel said that he met Mr. Gadkari at his residence in New Delhi on Thursday. Mr. Gadkari also mentioned about the Ministry being in the process of completing the tender process for widening the National Highway 75 stretch between BC Road and Addahole and of the National Highway 169 stretch between Sannur and Bikarnakatte. The Minister also assured of shortly taking up the work of developing the outer ring road in Mangaluru, the Mulky-Kateel-Bajpe-Polali-BC Road-Panemagaluru Road and the four laning of the stretch between Mani and Kushalnagar, Mr. Kateel stated.