New Delhi: The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will resume toll collection on national highways from April 20, as per a government communication, a move which is being opposed by the transport fraternity. The government had on March 25 announced temporarily suspending toll collection on national highways to ease emergency services in view of the coronavirus outbreak.
“In view of the relaxations provided by the Ministry of home affairs for the inter-state and intra-state movement of all trucks and other goods / carrier vehicles …NHAI should take actions necessary for compliance of the orders of Ministry of Home Affairs … and tolling operations be resumed w.e.f. 20th of April 2020,” the ministry of road transport and highways said in a letter to NHAI.
Replying to a letter from NHAI, the ministry said the NHAI in letters dated April 11 and 14 had highlighted reasons for resuming the collection of user fee on national highways, saying that the ministry of home affairs has allowed a lot of activities with effect from April 20, including commercial and private establishments and construction activities.
“It has been further highlighted that user fee collection contributes to the government exchequer and also provides financial strength to NHAI in terms of budgetary support,” the letter mentioned.
However, transporters’ apex body All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) has opposed the move.
“This is appallingly preposterous. On one hand the Government want the continuity of essential supplies and which our fraternity is doing against all odds and at even loss, in service of the nation,” AIMTC was quoted as saying by media reports.
Earlier, road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari had announced on March 25. “In view of COVID-19, it has ordered to temporarily suspend the collection of toll at all toll plazas across India,” he had said.
This will not only reduce inconvenience to emergency services but also save critical time, he had said.
Earlier, the road transport and highways ministry had advised the NHAI to follow the home ministry’s guidelines about toll plaza operations following the lockdown.
The prevailing condition may be treated as “Force Majeure” of concession or contract agreement in terms of the finance ministry, it had said.
The NHAI had rolled out the electronic toll collection programme across India in December on its over 500 toll plazas while doubling toll charges from the vehicles entering FASTag lanes without the tag.