SAMBALPUR/ROURKELA : In a unique protest against toll fee collection from private vehicles on Biju Expressway, members of Bar Associations of Sambalpur, Sundargarh and Jharsuguda districts on Saturday allowed the vehicles to pass through the toll gates without collecting fee for a time period ranging from 2 hours to 4 hours.In Sambalpur, members of Sambalpur District Bar Association (SDBA) and Sambalpur District Highway Users’ Forum (SDHUF) allowed free movement of vehicles at Pradhanpali toll plaza for four hours. The protestors reached the toll plaza at 8 am and continued their stir till 12 noon.
This apart, the agitators did not allow movement of commercial vehicles for three hours from 8 am.
Bar Association president Bijitendriya Pradhan said they are demanding exemption of toll fee for passenger vehicles, school vehicles and those meant for agriculture purposes. They resorted to the agitation after their demand to the State Government went unheard.“We will be forced to intensity stir over the issue if the Government fails to fulfil the demand,” Pradhan said.
The stir was called by SDBA and SDHUF extended support, said SDHUF convener Satyanarayan Panda. Members of Sambalpur Private Bus Owners’ Association, Truck Owners’ Association, Building Material Transporters’ Association and Mini Truck Owners’ Association joined the agitation.
In Sundargarh district, members of Sundargarh District Bar Association (SDBA), eminent citizens owing allegiance to Sundargarh Citizens’ Forum (SCF) and leaders of all political parties joined the agitation at Masnikani toll plaza from 8 am to 12 noon. Here also the protestors allowed private vehicles to cross the toll gate without collecting toll fee while detaining commercial vehicles on either side of the gates of Biju Expressway for several hours.
Informing about their demands, SDCA president and senior BJD leader Binay Toppo said their demand includes engagement of local tribal youths at toll plazas. SDCA general secretary Swaraj Patel and SCF president Ashok Das participated.Members of Bar Associations of Rourkela, Rajgangpur and Bonai along with elected representatives of Panchayati Raj Intuitions held similar protest at Laing toll gate near Rajgangpur in Sundargarh. Rourkela Bar Association president Satya Sharma and Rajgangpur Bar Association president P C Patnaik participated.
Similar protest was staged in Jharsuguda by members of Jharsuguda Bar Association.
Members of different forums had submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister and PWD Minister through respective district heads in March. The Biju Expressway was dedicated to the people on March 12 and collection of toll at Pradhanpali toll plaza began on March 13.