ROURKELA: Sundargarh district headquarters town remained paralysed for 12 hours on Saturday owing to the shutdown call given by Sundargarh Citizens’ Forum (SCF) in protest against abnormal toll fee collection at three locations on Rourkela-Sambalpur State Highway (SH) 10.Separately, over similar reasons, Rourkela Mining Area Truck and Tipper Owners’ Association (RMATTOA) also paralysed SH-10 with blockade at Laing toll gate near Rajgangpur from 11 am to 5 pm as hundreds of vehicles remained stranded on both sides of the road.
SCF members, with support of political and apolitical outfits, on Saturday effected dawn-to-dusk shutdown closing all shops, commercial establishments, banks, courts and government offices at Sundargarh town. Commercial vehicles also kept off the roads, while essential services and educational institutions were exempted. The protestors also blocked SH-10 at Masnikani toll gate, while coal transportation by road from the mines of Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL) in Hemgir block through the SH-10 was also affected.
SCF president Ashok Das said the shutdown call received spontaneous response from Sundargarh town and nearby Balishankara, Lefripara, Subdega and Hemgir blocks where tehsil offices remained closed and commercial vehicles stopped their operations. He said the protest would continue till abolition of the toll tax practice.Sundargarh District Bar Association (SDBA) president Nimai Charan Naik said on Monday, denizens of Sundargarh and all stakeholders would proceed to Masnikani toll gate, about 12 km from Sundargarh town, and hold a ‘Chetawani Samavesh’.
The SCF members have been protesting since March 13 evening and to placate the agitators, the district administration instructed the L&T to exempt vehicles with registration numbers starting with OD-16 issued by Sundargarh Regional Transport Office (RTO).RMATTOA Advisor B R Beura said they condemn administration’s decision to selectively exempt vehicles registered with Sundargarh RTO, while forcing vehicles with OD-14 registration numbers issued by Rourkela RTO in the same district to pay toll tax. He said they are ready to pay, but the toll fees should be revised downward judiciously.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had on March 12 dedicated the 164-km Sambalpur-Rourkela section of SH 10 renamed as Biju Expressway to the people after it was constructed at a cost of `1,292.56 crore.
Protestors said toll fees are collected at Laing and Masnikani of Sundargarh district and Nua Kharigaon in Sambalpur district. Light Motor Vehicles have to pay `160 for one side journey, while major minerals carrying oversize vehicles have to pay a total of `2,040. Toll tariffs at Masnikani are double than the other two gates.