Protests at the toll plaza en route to the airport continued into its third day on Monday after Navayuga Devanahalli Tollway Pvt Ltd increased toll by about 300 per cent, beginning Saturday midnight.
There were serpentine queues of cabs as passengers and taxi drivers argued with the toll collectors until the police deployed at the plaza told toll booth operators to collect whatever money was provided.
Later in the day, vehicles were directed to pull up on the side of the road and police collected money from the commuters to be paid to the booth operators.
The protest began around 8 am at the toll plaza on NH 7 and continued till evening at Sadahalli Gate toll plaza.
Travellers going to and fro from the airport were in for a rude shock when they reached the toll plaza near Devanahalli on Monday morning.
A few cab drivers forced some of them to pay the toll while other drivers refused to budge, leaving passengers stuck in the traffic snarl for more than two hours.
“Although my flight from Vizag reached Bangalore at 10 am, I was stuck in traffic for about an hour because of the toll hike protests. Our cab driver argued with the toll operator and the police finally asked to move the vehicle,” said Yashwanth Kuppilli, a software developer.
Meanwhile, policemen deployed at the booths had a hard time convincing the drivers that their protest was holding up vehicles. They seized a few cabs and allegedly forced drivers to pay the revised fee.
This resulted in more than 1,000 vehicles queuing up to pass the toll booth by noon and it took almost three hours for the police to make way for the vehicles.
Speaking to Express, Nagenahalli Krishnamurthy, of the Suvarna Karnataka Janashakti Vedike, said police officials forced most of the drivers to pay the toll “instead of doing their duty”.
“Around 8.45 am, the police assaulted a cab driver who was protesting and took him into custody. Our organisation condemns this as police are behaving like tollway mediators,” he charged.
One for the Road
Although sporadic protests continued throughout the day, various associations — from the All India Motor Transport Congress to the Bangalore Tourist and Taxi Owners Association — are yet to put up a united front.
G R Shanmugappa, toll committee chairman of the All India Motor Transport Congress, said the association has written to the State government, the Surface Transport Ministry at the Centre and the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) demanding a reduction in toll. “We have given them till the 7th to respond. If this does not happen, we have no option but to go on protest from the 8th onwards,” Shanmugappa said.
Various organisations have decided to hold a protest at the toll plaza on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Can’t Take a Hike
Shanmugappa said the usual norm was to increase toll by 5 per cent. “When asked, NHAI claims that Rs 220 crore was spent on the express way connecting Hebbal to the city. This is within city limits, how can they toll this road? Moreover, toll amount is usually reduced as the number of people commuting on the road increase,” he said.
Noting that vehicular movement has increased by 16 per cent along the Devanahalli stretch, Shanmugappa warned that the increased toll would push up the prices of “everything from plywood to vegetables”.
Reddy Asks for Reduction for BMTC
Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy, meanwhile, will write to the NHAI demanding that the BMTC and the KSRTC, being public transport units, be given a reduction in the toll amount. “I have spoken to the NHAI authorities orally and am in the process of drafting a letter requesting them to reduce the amount. We have sought exemption from paying toll in one direction,” he told Express. Over the last two days, BMTC has spent an additional `60,000 on toll at Devanahalli, each day. In a report submitted by the Divisional Controller (Central) to the Managing Director, BMTC, the official notes that earlier, to operate 246 round trips, around `25,000 was spent on toll. “The last two days, we have spend `85,200 on toll, per day, which is not feasible, unless the fares are hiked marginally,” the report said. BMTC is yet to take a decision on the exact fare hike.