Even as the nationwide strike called by the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) for scrapping of toll collection plazas across the country entered into its third day on Saturday, government and transport sector sources said detailed probe into the issue suggested that fleet operators seem to be more against checks through weigh-in-motion bridges being installed at toll plazas than the prevalent toll collection system.
Top sources in the government informed in meetings held between senior roads ministry officials and truckers association on October 1, that operators have indicated their willingness to pay even more toll than is being levied currently. “They have said that they are willing to pay toll, even more toll if required. They demanded that toll plazas be scrapped to check illegal collection by states at these centres. While initially we bought into this argument, it is now emerging that the problem seems to be centred around the weigh-in-motion bridges being installed at toll centres to check overloading,” said a transport sector source privy to developments at the meeting.
The government has refused to budge from its stance of not scrapping the toll collection system. The source added, “Today most truckers carry 20-30 per cent extra load. When weigh-in-motion bridges detect overloading at toll plazas, concessionaires can charge 10 times the toll amount as penalty. This whole agitation seems to be directed against such scrutiny.” AIMTC is scheduled to meet senior officials in the roads ministry for a detailed discussion on Sunday (October 4).
In the meantime, the transporters’ strike entered into its third day disrupting supply of goods across the country. Supply of essential goods such as milk, vegetables and medicines has been kept out of the purview of the indefinite strike, called by AIMTC. AIMTC, which claims to have 8.7 million trucks and 2 million buses and tempos across the country, staged a peaceful dharna at Jantar Mantar in Delhi today. AIMTC is protesting against the electronic-toll collection system being implemented by the government claiming it is ‘not practical’. The truckers body is demanding scrapping of the existing toll system, saying it is a tool of harassment, while it is seeking a one-time annualised payment of taxes and simplification of TDS procedure.
According to AIMTC the cumulative loss to the truckers in three days of strike is estimated to be about Rs 4,500 crore while the loss to the government could be more than Rs 30,000 crore.
While another truckers body, All India Transport Welfare Association (AITWA) has decided to keep away from the strike, Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training (IFTRT) said AIMTC’s suggestion to collect fixed annualised toll is not rational. Minister for Road, Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari has said, “It is up to them (transporters) to continue their strike. The government cannot scrap toll. We have already assured to implement electronic tolling system pan-India by December. I appeal to them to call off the strike.”