CHENNAI: Prices of vegetables, fruits, and other essential commodities are set to go up by three to five per cent because of the rise in toll at 20 toll plazas on the National Highways (NH) in the State. User fee will be hiked up by Rs 5-60 a trip depending on vehicle type from September 1, sources said.
While the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) maintained that road builders are authorised to increase user fee annually based on wholesale price index, traders and lorry associations demanded the intervention of the State government in bringing transparency to toll collection.
AM Vikrama Raja, President of Federation of Tamil Nadu Traders’ Association, said prices of essential commodities will be increased in proportionate to rise in logistics cost. “Additional expenses incurred by lorries will be transferred to the consumers, increasing the prices of vegetables, fruits, and groceries from September 2. Complete commercialisation of national highways should be controlled,” said Vikrama Raja, adding that the State government should take steps to shut the 24 toll gates on national highways that continue to collect tolls allegedly even after the expiry of their contracts.
Apart from the toll for use of national highways, commercial vehicles are charged a road tax of Rs 10,000-45,000 a month and the Union-government-imposed road-and-infrastructure-development cess on the purchase of diesel.
“A sleeper bus pays a toll of Rs 1,960 for a single Chennai-Madurai trip. This apart, it pays Rs 1,500 a day as road tax (Rs 45,000 a month) and the cess on diesel purchases,” said A Anbalagan, General Secretary, All Omni Bus Owners and Operators Association.
He said that taxes and other charges being collected for road building should be merged and motorists should be charged only once for the distance they covered. “The Union government should have relaxed toll collection for at least a few years for revival of economy,” added Anbalagan. S Yuvraj, President of Tamil Nadu Sand Lorry Owners Federation, said: “What stops the Centre from installing electronic boards at toll plazas displaying accounts of toll collection?
There is a huge malpractice in adjusting the toll revenue towards road -building cost. We have submitted a petition to the CM seeking to constitute a committee to monitor the toll collection on NHAI toll gates. We want to know how much is collected at toll gates.” When contacted, NHAI officials denied the allegations of malpractice and claimed that the toll-collection system is automated.