The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) reportedly collected over Rs 300 crore in toll taxes in 2022, an RTI reply has revealed.
The massive toll tax collection has raised concerns about transparency in governance and how these funds should be utilised for the benefit of Assam’s residents, said Rakesh Hazarika, the Director of the Global Pandemic Response Forum (GPRF), an organisation focused on public health and transparency in governance.
Rakesh Hazarika filed a Right to Information (RTI) request seeking information about NHAI’s toll tax collection in Assam and across the country. The disclosure of this substantial toll revenue has prompted discussions about the implications and potential uses of funds.
When EastMojo asked Hazarika about the reason for filing the RTI, he stressed on transparency as the primary motive. “As a citizen I am exercising my right to know about the toll taxes NHAI collects in Assam and across the country. Being a public authority that handles public money, NHAI is obligated to proactively disclose the toll revenue it collects from the citizens,” he said.
Given Assam’s role as a gateway state to the region, a significant toll tax collection was expected, Hazarika pointed out.
NHAI’s toll collection booths have witnessed numerous protests in Assam, particularly under the leadership of Akhil Gogoi, who has been a vocal critic of tolls. When asked whether his RTI disclosure might provide further ammunition to those opposing tolls, Hazarika explained that the information he sought was intended for the public interest. He emphasised that these funds should be used for immediate public interest priorities, including the development of wayside amenities, especially for the safety and convenience of women and children, providing better wages for tollgate employees, establishing emergency trauma care facilities along National Highways, and potentially offering free accident insurance to travellers on these highways.
Hazarika concluded by highlighting the importance of transparent and accountable utilisation of toll tax revenues for the benefit of Assam’s residents. He also urged the government to consider these priorities in ensuring that the collected funds contribute to the well-being and safety of those travelling on the National Highways.
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