Rebuking the nearly 350 per cent hike in toll in effect at Devanahalli toll plaza from Sunday, JD(S) supremo Deve Gowda slammed Navayuga for “sucking the blood out of people” with an unprecedented hike in charges.
Joining protesters at the toll plaza on Wednesday, Gowda demanded a probe into why no service road was provided when the toll road was constructed. “Why was a service road not provided in this case? Why has the state government, the Union government and the NHAI turned a blind eye towards this issue,” Gowda asked.
Stressing that highways are linked to the development of a country, he termed Navayuga’s move “completely unreasonable.”
“This issue will be raised when the next session begins,” he said. Gowda, who arrived at plaza around 2.30 pm, ended the protest for the day soon after his visit.
The Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV) and other groups of taxi owners and drivers gathered at the toll plaza on Wednesday morning too. They continued their protests that began on Saturday midnight, soon after Navayuga announced the toll hike through pamphlets, near the airport.
Almost 300 policemen were deployed in the area during the protests to ensure that no untoward incidents took place. However, things almost got out of hand in the morning when some of the protestors broke the glass panes of two toll booths. Seventy KRV members were arrested by the police.
There was no visible increase in numbers on Wednesday, police officials at the plaza said.
Farmers from nearby villages too joined in the protests. H M Kodandaramiah, a farmer from Chikkanahalli who sold his land for the construction of the road, rued that they were now being charged to move in the area.
“We are being charged to enter our own lands. We are not against toll, all we’re asking for is justice in the way it’s charged. They are saying they have not met the previous expenditure of Rs 220 crore. Where has all the money they have made from toll collection in the last few years gone,” he demanded to know.
Pockets Empty, Cry Drivers
Drawing attention to drivers’ plight, Krishnappa, a cabbie, said, “I’m ready to forgo my trips and join the protest till I get justice. If I pay so much for toll then how am I to feed myself and my family.” Drivers like him are not satisfied with the proposed passes - Rs 1,280 for cars (25 single trips), Rs 2,560 for cars (50 trips) and Rs 3,000 (60 trips). Another cab driver, Muniraju, said, “Paying so much for toll and then paying for fuel as well has left us with nothing. It pains me to go home empty-handed. I cannot look after my family”.
Meanwhile, G R Shanmugappa, president of the Federation of Karnataka State Lorry Owners’ and Agents’ Association, demanded that the toll plaza itself be done away with, considering that it was within city limits. “According to NHAI’s crieria, the toll plaza has to be at a distance of 20 km from the corporation limits. In this instance, this is not the case,” he said. “There are a number of flyovers in Chennai, Hubli, Tumkur etc, for which no toll is charged. This happens only in Bangalore,” he added.