VIP cars ‘account for’ 53% vehicles at Paranur toll plaza: CAG report
The CAG report said on an average, percentage of VIP vehicles exempted from toll fee was 6% at Kodai Road and a few other toll booths managed by private operators.
CHENNAI: In a startling disclosure, a CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General of India) report has said that about half of the vehicles that passed through the Paranur toll plaza on Tambaram-Tindivanam NH between August 2019 and June 2020 did not pay toll fee because they were ‘VIP vehicles’.
The toll operating agency designated by the NHAI had claimed that 62.37 lakh of 1.17 crore vehicles (53.27%) that passed through the booth were VIP vehicles and no fee was collected from them as per rules. Similarly, 36% vehicles that used the Athur toll plaza located on the same road were recorded as VIP vehicles. Out of 88.92 lakh vehicles, 32.39 lakh vehicles have not paid user fee at the Athur toll booth.
The CAG report said on an average, percentage of VIP vehicles exempted from toll fee was 6% at Kodai Road and a few other toll booths managed by private operators. The Tambaram-Tindivanam NH was financed entirely through the public exchequer, and user fee is being collected at Paranur and Athur toll gates located on the NH since April 1, 2005.
If the actual earning from a toll plaza is not correctly accounted for, the recovery of the project cost is delayed and toll operators continue to collect the fee even after the concessionaire agreement period is over, sources Z. Interestingly, the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways responded to the CAG’s report by saying that there was no loss to the exchequer as the payment made by toll operators to the NHAI was predetermined as per the agreement. Even if there is a drop in collection, the NHAI will not incur any loss, the union highways ministry said.
Paranur is BJP model toll gate corruption, says Madurai MP
Due to the agreement between NHAI and the contractor, the original quantum of toll collection in Athur and Paranur toll booths have not been recorded for several years, sources said. As per the National Highway Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules, 2008, toll fee has to be slashed by 60 % on realisation of the project cost.
TNIE contacted the NHAI Chennai Regional Office to seek clarity on the provision of “predetermined toll collection” for the Tambaram-Tindivanam NH that witnesses a daily traffic of over one lakh vehicles. But officials declined to comment.
Sources said a section of political leaders and their supporters, advocates, journalists, relatives of top government officials and other influential people always evade fee as Paranur and Athur toll plazas have been functioning even after the contract period.
Su Venkatesan, Madurai Lok Sabha member, tweeted saying that Paranur toll plaza stands as symbol of modern corruption that can be called “BJP model toll gate”. A TNIE report dated October 4th, 2021, had exposed huge disparities in toll collection at the Paranur toll plaza before and after the implementation of FASTag payment system.
As per the data obtained by TNIE through RTI, around 5.08 lakh vehicles passed through the Paranur toll plaza in July 2019, resulting in a collection of `3.14 crore. In contrast, the number of tolled vehicles went up by 7.39 lakh in July 2021 generating a collection of `8.83 crore. About 12.47 lakh vehicles had crossed the toll gate after FASTag roll out.
More ‘free rides’ mean longer collection period
If the actual earning from a toll plaza is not correctly accounted for, the recovery of the road project cost is delayed and toll operators continue to collect the fee even after the concessionaire agreement period is over