ROURKELA: Residents have called for a 12- hour shutdown of Sundargarh district headquarters town on Saturday to protest against abnormal toll collection at Masnikani gate on Rourkela- Sambalpur Biju Expressway (State Highway-10). Eminent citizens, members of various political parties and apolitical outfits, including Sundargarh District Bar Association (SDBA), under the banner of Sundargarh Citizens’ Forum (SCF), have demanded total suspension of toll collection.
On the 163-km stretch of the Rourkela- Sambalpur section, toll tax is being collected at Laing and Masnikani in Sundargarh district and Nua Kharigaon in Sambalpur district. SCF president Ashok Das said the shutdown would be effective at Sundargarh town and connecting rural pockets, including coal mines of MCL in Hemgir block. A ‘Chetawani Samavesh’ would also be organised on Monday to demand total abolition of toll tax. Das said the mining and industrial region of Sundargarh is a tribal- dominated district which provides huge revenue to the Odisha Government.
However, the Government has entered into an understanding with the profiteering L&T company to impose financial burden on the people of the district. He said people had already paid toll tax for 17 years and after upgradation of SH-10, they would have to again pay the abnormal fee for 20 years. He further informed that for oneway journey, Light Motor Vehicles (LMVs) are charged `45 each at Laing and Nua Khurigaon, while at Masnikani, the fee is `90. For Light Commercial and Light Goods Vehicles, `70 is charged at Laing and Nua Khurigaon and at Masnikani, it is `115. Six-wheeler trucks have to pay `170 each at Laing and Nua Kharigaon besides `270 at Masnikani.
Similarly, tractor trollies, which are mostly used for transportation of agriculture products, are charged `150 each at Laing and Nua Kharigaon and `270 at Masnikani, Das said. Mineral carrying vehicles are charged `565 and `570 at Laing and Nua Kharigaon, while at Masnikani, the fee is `905, he added. On Tuesday, a demonstration was staged at Sundargarh Collectorate followed by protest at Masnikani toll gate on Wednesday evening forcing deployment of police force.
It is learnt that vehicles bearing registration number OD 16 issued by Sundargarh have been exempted from the toll fees for now. Sundargarh Muncipality Chairman Benudhar Tandia said it is difficult and unacceptable for local vehicle owners, including farmers, travelling short distances to pay tax every time they travel through Masnikani toll gate.